September 5, 2008

Week one of language in the books

Well our first week of language school/tutoring is in the books. It was a great week, and I'm super excited to be learning the language outside of the survival words/phrases. In my (Matt's) class we are studying Pinyin, which is the Chinese alphabet. Chinese is different in how it is written, because their words are pictures called characters, but recently (like maybe in the past 50 years) they have also started writing their words out in letters. So instead of having 26 letters that form all the words in the English language, the Chinese have literally 9,000 (or so) drawings that make up their written language. So Pinyin helps us a TON to know, because anyone on the street (who knows Pinyin) can write down words for us and when we know the sounds to make we can say that word, as opposed to Chinese characters which I have NO clue how to read. We have also begun our work on the tones. For those of you who don't know Chinese is spoken in 4 tones. This is weird to English speakers, as tones don't affect our words, but for example, ma can be said 4 different ways and mean 4 different words. Saying it's tough is an understatement. Either way it's going well for both Heather and I as we are learning the language, but it has it's frustrations as well. One classic story from this week for me was when our teacher asked me to read this line of four words to practise my tones and pinyin. When I said the first word I knew it was WAY off, and in pure confusion the teacher said "I'm sorry, can you read from right here" and she gently pointed at this one spot, to which I replied "I was". So yeah, it can be a little tough.

Lastly, we are going to the mountains tomorrow!!! The Chinese family we have become friends with invited us to go. It's like an hour away and we are stoked to get to see a little of the countryside. I will try and write about it tomorrow. Oh, and I will also write about my 8 hour walk across Xi'an.
Matt, Heather, Sydney, and little Aubrey