Put in Practice

Posted: February 23, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

By reading this short sentence, you are recognizing a series of pictures, attaching meaning to each of them, and then combining them to mean something totally different than what they mean individually.

Crazy, huh?

Alja Photo CC-by Alja, and also RELEVANT

This week, Ms. Fish and I decided to take a lighter version of a lesson considering that the week was jam-packed with responsibilities, including unplanned ones like a work shift to be covered and a trip up a mountain and subsequently back down again on two pieces of wood (skiing, we went skiing, okay?! and jeez, guys, I’m so bad at it. I hurt.)

With a fogged-over car window as an improvised whiteboard, we’re off!

I’m beginning to be able to recognize and say certain characters. With that, I’m also discovering that certain characters can have multiple meanings. The word for “both,” dou, is also the word for “all.” Simultaneously. Not contextually, nor tonally, but simultaneously. Both, and all. This is a concept that’s kinda funky for me to wrap my brain around. Apparently, as the teach tells me, the idea that we have two different words for these would be strange to Chinese students.

I’m not fantastic, but I am at a point where I can recognize some super-basic sentences. I can also recognize Tristen’s name in Chinese, but only because she writes nice things about me with it. I presume. I guess she could theoretically be writing naughty things, but I’ll choose the optimistic outlook. 😛

Stefan Photo CC-by Stefan, a language long ago in a galaxy far, far away

Same Page, Different Book

In a similar vein to the “both / all” fiasco, there are also different ways to say something with the same meaning. I’m not talking about synonyms, I mean contextually. The word for “very” in Chinese is dependent on if an adverb or an adjective is being described by said “very”.

Wait, it gets better. The Chinese have only (relatively) recently incorporated a question mark at the end of sentences to signify a question. Traditionally, there’s a word specifically to denotate that a question has been asked.. and it goes at the end of a sentence. Roughly, if I were to translate asking how someone was in Chinese, the English would be something along the lines of “You good question.” What. The hell.

The foreshadowing of the lessons to come sparks a fire in my curious brain and brutally strangles the part of my brain that expects everything to fit in my little, comfort-zone based box. Hm? What’s that? Oh.. wait, are you serious?

I am now being told that there are different words for things depending on pluralities, as well as differences in words written vs. words spoken orally, such as for the form of currency. The word “tiao” is apparently a measurement form for things like pairs of pants… or fish. “Long-ish things,” the teach tells me is how she remembers it. That’s planned for the future.

My head hurts.


  1. I understand what you’re going through. While we lived in Alaska, I learned many words that had multiple meanings in the Inupiaq language. Likewise, our Pledge of Allegiance, while fairly short in English, is much longer in Inupiaq. The written form of Inupiaq is less than 100 years old, and is still being developed. You, on the other hand, are learning an ages old language. Good luck!

    • jamcfarland says:

      Learning a language that is still being developed to me is almost even stranger than the nuances of this language. At the very least, with Chinese, I know there are rules that have been established and followed. That’s interesting.

  2. angietemple says:

    LOL….Hang in there and keep up the good work. I love the Star Wars langauge class picture!!! MAY THE FORCE WITH YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s