我学中文


Lately in March, I’ve taken the step to get serious about studying Chinese while I’m here. You learn the basics in the first month – how to say “this one” and the numbers 1-10; you learn to say “I’m a teacher” and tell people where you’re from since those are the first questions that people ask you. I have two Chinese lessons per week: one provided by my school, and also I’ve hired a private Chinese tutor (who came recommended by a friend) to help me grasp this incredibly simple, yet frustratingly complex language. Having a base set for me from my Chinese 101 class certainly helps me as I learn and my general knowledge of grammar and linguistics doesn’t hurt either. flowershop-vintage.jpg

Chinese is really simple grammatically. They don’t bother with grammatical fluff like indefinite and definite articles, subjects are often optional, there are no verb tenses or conjugations. Even the vocabulary is fairly simple most of the time, with the complex nouns being compilations of other, more simple vocabulary. For example: if you know the word for medicine, and shop, just put them together and you know the word for pharmacy. It doesn’t always work like that, but that helps with the lack of cognates. On the other hand, English is a very hard language to learn – it has one of the most extensive vocabularies of any other language, the grammatical structure is complex, it breaks rules faster than it can make them, and the phonetics is such a mutt of languages that it’s no wonder even native speakers have to guess how to pronounce a word.

Chinese being the third language I’m learning, I’ve noticed how confused my brain is. It’s trained to respond to any non-English speaking person in French…which certainly doesn’t help in China. Sometimes I manage to compose a sentence from all three languages, which ends up being incomprehensible to everyone but me. Also, during my Chinese lessons, we haven’t even gotten to tones yet when working with my phonetics. We’re still working on the initials and the finals…the problem being that I can’t seem to say them together. My tutor is really confused that I’m able to make (most of) the sounds individually, but I can’t put them together. By the end of a two hour session, my mouth is in so much pain from trying to say the words correctly.

Next stop: Beijing

 

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Church in Changsha


welcome word cloudThis Sunday afternoon, I managed to get out of my apartment and find my way to a church that I’d heard about from another foreigner (who’s been living in Changsha for a couple years now). I was a little unsure if I was in the right place at first, so I just kind of  hung around for a bit until I started to see a bunch of other foreign people going in the building. Then I just followed them.

The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. Now to
answer the question(s) that I’m sure is sitting on the edge of your tongues: Is it an underground church?  Are you going to be arrested?? No. We’re on the 27th floor of a large international building near the center of the city. There are a few Chinese people there, but since the services are bilingually run in French and English (more on this later), and most Chinese here don’t speak either of those languages well enough to follow the service, nor do they have much interest in religion…I’m going to guess that’s why they don’t typically attend.

The church is called Changsha International Christian Fellowship. I loved the service and this welcoming, energetic, enthusiastic group of Christians. The service really is a compilation of denominational styles–which is actually why I love it so much. There’s enough Pentecostalism to keep things moving and fun, but there’s also a fair bit of liturgy in there. Since I’ve spent most of my time in rather liturgical churches, I really appreciate that.

And then here’s my favorite part: the majority of the service is bilingual in French and English. For those of you who might not have a good picture in your mind of what a bilingual church looks like–they say a sentence in English and then someone is standing next to them in translate it into French. I experienced this in Hillsong Paris and I fell in love with it there. It takes some getting used to the repetition and language switching, but once you do adjust, it’s nice to have the extra processing time to really focus on the message being said. And since translation is never exact – you actually get the message in two different ways, so you can kind of choose the translation that makes more sense. Or if you didn’t hear the first line, you can go off the second line. There are so many benefits to this, so I love it.

So while the majority of the service was in French and English, there was also some other languages that popped up. In worship time, there was an…African language (sorry I couldn’t tell which one…) that made a debut. And then Communion was bilingual in Chinese and English  (Chinese first, then English). I also heard in the short meeting for newcomers after the service, that there’s some Portuguese and Spanish speaking members as well.

One of my favorite things is when believers from around the world gather together and our faith unites us despite our cultural, linguistic, and physical differences.