Monday, June 09, 2014

中文 for growunups?

One of my classmates has lent me a set of Mandarin conversation CDs from what seems to be a leader in the field of learning language by listening and repeating. I've given it a whirl - nice accompaniment to making kimpira gobo! -and it works pretty well, so far as I can tell.

But the thing that struck me right away is that this is for grown-up business people, not for college students - like every other language resource I've seen before, including our own. So the very first conversation is not about introducing yourself to your fellow students from around the world, but an American man approaching a Chinese woman he doesn't know. By the third 30-minute lesson she is praising his mastery of Mandarin 你普通话说得很好. By the fifth he's proposed they go eat something together, to which she responds coyly that she doesn't feel like eating 不想吃一点东西 but would like to have a little drink 可是想喝一点东西, and when she can't suggest a place he proposes she come to his place 你想去我那喝一点东西马, which she gladly does. Of course, that's the only Chinese he knows, so I don't know what they're going to talk about now!

[Update from lessons 7-8: not so fast! She doesn't want to go to his place after all but to a coffee shop. Or to the Beijing Restaurant. But she does want to join him for lunch 我也想跟你一起吃午饭.]

[Or maybe not after all. As of lesson 9 she's no longer sounding flirtatiously hot and cold, but more like Sam I Am, telling him she doesn't want to meet him at one or at two, at eight or at nine 一点钟不好,两点钟不好,八点钟不好,九点钟不好 . When he persists, it's classic: You don't understand. - What don't I understand? - You don't understand what I'm saying 你不明白我说什么!]

[By lesson 11, it's become a game: One o'clock? 一点钟?- No good. Two o'clock? 不好。两点钟?- No good. Three o'clock? 不好。三点钟 - Impossible. Four? 不行。四点钟?... But we've learned some more words, so I'm confident the sun'll come out: How about dinner tomorrow 那吗,明天晚上吧? It's looking promising.]

[By lesson 15, she's the one asking and you, "in an agreeable mood," answer all her questions in the affirmative. Of course one of them is if you can buy a lot of beer 那吗,你可不可以买很多啤酒!]

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