Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Beijing Pirates

No, The Beijing Pirates is not the name of a local soccer team. Although, it probably should be.

In Beijing, everyday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Dialects and different accents of major languages can be found in every corner of the globe. In Spain, they speak with a lisp unfamiliar to North Americans accustomed to Mexican Spanish. And more specifically, in Galicia they speak Gallego, a Spanish-Portuguese blend. In Ghana, i heard an English spoken that was unique and pleasing to the ears, not unlike Pidgin English. And if you live in China, you are certainly aware of the Beijing accent, and if you live in Beijing, you likely speak it. I know i do.

In Beijing (and Tianjin), the locals add an "er" (儿) to the end of many common words. The result sounds to foreigners like "Aaarrr". Examples:
  • Curmudgeonly taxi drivers chew their way through directions - on the right - "zài yòu biān'er", 在右边儿.
  • Waiters, known as fú wù yuán'er, 服务员儿, sullenly bring you beer and lamb kebobs, yī píng'er pí jiǔ hé yáng ròu chuàn'er, 一瓶儿啤酒和羊肉串儿.
  • Playing some ultimate frisbee is wán'er yī diǎn'er fēi pán, 玩儿一点儿飞盘.
My initial year in Beijing was pretty worthless for Chinese. I listened to Podcasts and picked up a few things along the way. But, if i arrived as a one, i only improved to a two. However, since i started taking classes at That's Mandarin last May, i've progressed to a five. Sure, i'm making this scale up, but whatever. I'm now proficient enough to get myself through any everyday situation, can communicate on the phone, and can read a Chinese menu. I'm a long way from being able to really read, but that hasn't been my goal yet. This year, maybe it will be.

Oh, and jokes! I've learned about six jokes in Chinese, from my new teacher. Of course, none of them are actually funny, per se, but i learned them!


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