Tonight was my first day back at school. Yep! I have gone back to school. What am I taking? Adult Mandarin – Level 1 at Langara College. I decided that I needed to learn to speak the main language used by China because I’m getting tired of having white guys translate for me whenever I’m in Taipei for Computex. The first time I was there, Lyle, a white guy who works for FiringSquad, shared taxi rides with me. Whenever we get into the cab, the taxi driver would look to me expecting to receive instructions and I would just point to Lyle. Lyle would tell the driver where to go in Mandarin. And then there was Geoff, another white guy who got me an interview with Shuttle’s booth babe, who spoke very little English. Geoff translated my questions for her. So I’m the Chinese guy, but I have white guys translating for me!
Learning Mandarin seems really hard at first. A lot of the consonants and vowels sound the same. The first lesson teaches you Hanyu Pinyin – the phonetic alphabet used to pronounce Chinese words. There are 21 consonants, 16 vowels and 2 semi-vowels. Learn to pronounce this alphabet and you’ll be able to say any Mandarin words.
The class was limited to 16 students. There were two classes running at the same time. I was the last student admitted, or so I thought. I showed up to find that the school had so overbooked the classes that they had to add a third class. I ended up in the 3rd class with 12 other students – five white guys and the rest Asians (5 girls, 2 guys). I asked the white folks why they wanted to learn Chinese? Four replied it’s where the money is going and one said to pick up a Chinese chick. They all laughed at my reason.
I’m going to have to master this Pinyin phonetic alphabet before next week’s class. Good thing Sarah speaks perfect Mandarin. I can practice on her.