Saturday, June 28, 2008

The magic numbers 325, 35, and 5.

The magic numbers 325, 35, and 5. These numbers might not mean anything to you, but those numbers explain to me where the last month of my life has been; buried in my chinese book. So allow me to break down those numbers for you guys.

325: The number of new vocabulary I have learned this month. Each new vocabulary word usually consists of 2 or 3 characters.
35: The number of new grammar structures introduced.
5: The number of chapters I have finished in the past 3 weeks.

These numbers seem a little bit crazy, but it is only when I sat down and started to add up the numbers that I realized the demanding regime of these past 3 weeks. My class is amazing, I can feel my Chinese improving every single day by leaps and bounds. I have started to study poetry, and am learning how to express my Western thoughts in an Eastern way; not a simple task. One of the wonderful things about my class is the having to opportunity to just talk with my teacher about anything that comes to mind. Most of the time we are working on class materials, but every now and again we just talk. The other day for example we started talking about the future and the possibility of Robot Rights, that lead to a discussion about the book and movie i-Robot and of course the three laws of robotics.

It amazes me that in less than two years of Chinese study, I am able to talk about these kinds of subjects, and I know that it wouldn't have been possible without the help of my great teachers here and back home in the states. While I love having crazy discussions in class about my interests, I really enjoy when my teacher talks about the more cultural aspects of the Chinese language. Every day I seem to learn something new and interesting about China's past, and how it has molded todays culture and language. This new class has really opened my eyes to one of my favorite tidbits of this beautiful language; idioms. Chinese is filled with idioms, they are often a four, six, or eight character saying that expresses a much larger idea. One I have learned recently is 情人眼裡出西施 (qíng rén yǎn lǐ chū xī shī). This is similar to the English saying Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but with a little history built in. The characters 情人(qíng rén) mean a person in love, 眼裡 (yǎn lǐ) means in your eyes, 出西施 (chū xī shī) means seeing Xi Shi one of the ancient beauties of Chinese History. Wiki says:

Xi Shi's beauty was said to be so extreme that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and gradually sunk away from the surface, birds would forget to fly and fall from the sky, the moon would fade, and flowers would close their petals in shame in comparison to her. (Thus the idiom 沉魚落雁, 閉月羞花 (chén yú luò yàn, bì yuè xiū huā ) which is used to compliment someone's beauty.)

This type of information I consider priceless, and I don't think I would be able to take the time to learning something like this in a normal class with five, six, or seven other students. I would love to write some more about the poetry I am learning, but that will have to wait. Perhaps I can put on a little performance of a selection of classical poetry when I get home. The characters themselves don't do a poem justice. A poet must always remember 詩中有畫,畫中有詩 (shī zhōng yǒu huà, huà zhōng yǒu shī) A poet must speak a poem like he is painting a picture, a painter must paint a picture like he is telling a poem. I will be sure to share the rest of my adventures as much as I can before I make my way back home in two months time.

1 comment:

Aunt Carrie said...

Hi Jake,

Great blog! You touched on another one of my interests, poetry. I studied poetry and it taught me how to put emotion and beauty into my writing as well as my speech, not an easy thing to accomplish. It must be even harder to do in another language.

Good Luck and keep at it!