I’m leaving for Taiwan in three weeks. That is, I’m leaving to live in Taiwan for eight months three weeks from today. HOT DOG! And up until now all the Chinese I’ve bothered to learn is “I eat poop” and “go away.” Unsure how these phrases will serve me when I meet James’ grandparents next month - I began studying in earnest yesterday.
My educational matter consists of a book and corresponding computer program James’ mom sent to me. It’s a course put out by the Taiwanese government. In this program an animated white (as in the ethnicity, read: Caucasian) fairy introduces each lesson in long Chinese sentences that I don’t understand. During the lesson, I pretend to learn half a dozen words. Then after each lesson, I play a “game” in which gophers holding placards with Chinese characters jump out of holes to the beat of techno music and I vainly attempt to match the character with the sound of the word. Impossible, I know.
After each of these lessons and subsequent games I call James. And in a tone and inflection that reflects the fact I was raised in Alaska and never seriously attempted to learn a foreign language, I say: “NEE ZOW WAH MANG NEE NUH?” This is followed by a very long, uncomfortable pause. After which in his most nonjudgmental, compassionate, boyfriendly voice James says: “What were you trying to say?” Whining supremely, I retort, “I WAS TRYING TO SAY, ‘GOOD MORNING. I’M BUSY. ARE YOU BUSY?’” At this point James must pull me back from the edge of emotional breakdown. Then he very patiently goes through each syllable, correcting my pronunciation, after which he assures me that I’m moderately intelligible. Somehow, I don’t believe him.
Guess I’ll learn when we land.