Ni hao ma?

I didn’t start learning Mandarin until last year. I had a lot of time on my hands because I wasn’t working for a month. I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos. Then somehow I came across a Chinese movie that looked interesting. I started watching that for a bit. With my understand of Cantonese, I was hoping to be able to follow the movie without having to resort to reading the subtitles. It didn’t work.

At the time, I didn’t know how to differentiate between Cantonese and Mandarin. Basically, to me, it was all Chinese but I didn’t know enough of either dialect to tell the difference. The way words were written out appeared to be the same but the way they were pronounced was different. Since they were pronounced differently, I thought they would look different as well but they didn’t.

  • 零 (ling)
  • 一 (yi)
  • 二 (er)
  • 三 (san)
  • å›› (si)
  • 五 (wu)
  • å…­ (liu)
  • 七 (qi)
  • å…« (ba)
  • 九 (jiu)
  • 十 (shi)

These are the same characters in Cantonese as they are in Mandarin. If I’m not mistaken, Japanese characters are exactly the same as well. I guess after I’ve learned enough Chinese, I can try to pick up Japanese as well. I already understand some of it from watching Anime. And why stop there? I might as well finish learning Korean. I understand a bit of that too. But for now, I think I’ll stick with Chinese until I’ve learned enough.

Fossil watch with Chinese/Japanese characters

This is my other Fossil watch. I don’t buy any other watches unless they’re made by Fossil. This one has Chinese/Japanese characters on it. The LCD counts the seconds using Chinese characters too but right now the battery that runs that part of the watch is dead so you can’t see it.

Every time someone asked me what time it was, there was a bit of a delay before I gave them an answer. Normally, you’d look at the watch and you’d know what time it is by the angle of the hands. I think the Chinese characters threw me off a little. This watch helped me learn the numbers a bit quicker because I had to read the numbers in Chinese and then translate it to English before I could tell the other person what time it was.

During the summer of 2006, I quit working for Rogers. My excuse was because I had another job lined up. That was only an excuse and not the actual reason why I left. I couldn’t handle the job anymore because I couldn’t stand calling up people and bothering them for money on late payments. I quit that job before I had another job lined up. So that meant that I was at home sitting in front of the computer for about a month.

With nothing else to do but waste time, I ended up watching a lot of videos. The video that I watched was called “Xian Jian Qi Xia Zhuan” or “Chinese Paladin” starring Hu Ge Zhao and Liu Yi Fei. It’s a Chinese drama that aired on Chinese television about a couple the fell in love, the guy loses his memory and they fall in love again. The plot of the drama was pretty good and it kept me hooked on it. There’s a bit of a twist in the end when everything is explained.

Chinese Paladin

As I was watching this movie, I was trying to pick out the words that I knew. Once I figured out that it was in Mandarin, I started paying more attention to the subtitles. There was a few words that they repeated a lot so I picked up those words first. The one word that was said a lot was “明白” pronounced “ming bai” meaning “understand.” The wizard in the drama said it a lot and one of the song in the soundtrack had that word in the title.

After going back and forth between Cantonese and Mandarin movies, I finally managed to differentiate the two languages. I had to listen in on the words and hear how they said certain words. In Cantonese the word for “I” is pronounced, “Ngo” while in Mandarin it’s pronounced, “Wo.” The same goes for the word “You.” In Cantonese it’s, “Nei/Lei” and in Mandarin it’s, “Ni.”

Some of the other words were very close as well. That’s the part that made it difficult to learn the two dialects at the same time. I could have just learned one dialect first and then the other but I find it easier to just learn the two simultaneously since some of the words are going to be the same. The sentence structure appears to be similar as well. The way that a word is made negative is my adding “No” in front of it. Once you know what the positive form is, you just add a “Bu” (Mandarin) or “Mm”( Cantonese) in front of it and it becomes negative. It’s basically the same thing in English where you add “Not” to make the word negative.

Knowing these basic rules allowed me to pick up the dialects quicker. The only obstacle now is to speak the correct tone in order to say the correct word. I tried to say “Excuse me” to my friend and he couldn’t understand me. He thought I was calling him my sister or I had said thank you. That’s not exactly what I wanted to say but at least he understood it as Chinese.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. I don’t know if I’ve got the Chinese words correct because they were just translate from English word for word. I think after a few months of practice, I can become a Chinaman in no time. And then I can take over the world!

对不起 请问 你会说英语吗?
Dui bu qi. Qing wen. Ni hui shuo ying wen ma?
Excuse me. I’m sorry. Do you speak English?

对不起小姐 您讲英语?
Cheng man seu jeah. Nei sik m sik tang ying man ah?
Excuse me, Miss. Do you speak English?