Sunday, April 20, 2014

Qiao ke li (That's Chinese for chocolate)

I started learning Mandarin by accident: I was updating my italki.com profile so that any interested users would see my interest in exchanging English for (primarily) French, when a user named Jessica approached me with an offer to study Chinese. "Why not?" I asked myself. It was a great opportunity to confront some of my fears and prejudices against a language I had tried studying several times, unsuccessfully. And so it began...

I stopped learning French so I could focus on Mandarin, and one night I had an idea which excited me so much that I couldn't sleep: I should combine my next vacation with a study period, so that I could get the most out of my time abroad. I asked my Taiwanese friend if I could stay with her for a month, and she agreed. Starting this May, I will be back in rural Tainan province, doing my best to speak the language. I expect it will be quite a challenge, but I'm determined to make it as fun as possible.

To be fair, I'm still getting the hang of the tones. It's easier to learn to distinguish between them when they're clustered in groups rather than hanging about by themselves (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sorry). It stuck in my mind that qiao3 ke4 li4 (the falling then rising tone, followed by two falling tones) is the transliteration of chocolate, which is why it's the title of this post. My dad later informed me that chocolate has only been available in China for the last 30 years and remains unpopular due to the locals' preference for salty and savoury foods.

I'll be bringing my Android tablet with me, so I look forward to blogging from Taiwan. My adventure begins on May 13 - I can't wait!

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