Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Through a Facebook page maintained by UCSD's International Center, I've found a 语伴 yuban (language partner) just as my textbook introduces that term. We met for two hours of conversation today, first in Mandarin and then in English. I'd brought my textbook but we just explored common interests, which, while frustrating (I know so few words...!), is just what I need. My two-pronged self-education program through 成功之路 Road to Success and Pimsleur audio is teaching me how to negotiate dorm life at Beijing Foreign Languages University and how to manage business acquaintanceships in China (recently 我建议你改变一下学习习惯 and yiqi qu da baorinqiu haoba, respectively I suggest you change your study habits a little and how about going bowling together). Each of these will doubtless turn out to be helpful in unexpected ways, directly and indirectly! But learning the things I'd actually want to say (and how far I am from being able to say them) needs this kind of conversation.

My 语伴 turns out to be one of forty-seven professors from China at UCSD for a half-year program in bilingual education. Originally from Inner Mongolia and trained in law in Chongqing and Guangzhou, he now teaches medical and bioethics in Guizhou, but his real love seems to be 哲学 zhexue, philosophy! Now I know the words for definition (定义 dingyi) and concept (概念 gainian) and even what the Frankfurt School is called in China: 法兰克福学派 falankefu xuepai. I hadn't considered that every name gets sinicized, including the names of philosophers. Like Locke, for instance (who came up in my unsuccessful attempt to explain why many American scholars think the modern category of "religion" problematic): 洛克, pron. luoke.

So much to learn... ugh! (Learned how to say San Diego too: 圣地亚哥 shengdiyage.) But it's fun to have an interlocutor who knows why it might be worth learning. Hope I'll get to see him several more times before I head for Shanghai!

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