Monday, November 07, 2005

More Cultural Notes

Today I ran into a guy from the states that I met in the first few days here, and he asked me about how my teacher is presenting our book's materials. We continued talking, and got on the topic of how we speak foreigner Chinese. We're both a bit frustrated with the fact that neither of us knows enough about idioms to be able to speak like a native.

Idioms are really important in this language, I'm finding. I'm sure my teachers have stressed this in the past, but living here has really driven the point home for me. The idioms reveal alot about the culture, I think. The one I learned today is one that you can use while at a restaurant. Let's say you've ordered some soup. The server brings you soup, but no bowls, and no spoons. What you would say in that situation (translated) is:

"You married me, but you didn't give me any children."

With every text I read for class and every thing like the above I hear, I understand more and more the amount of pressure there is to get married and have children. It's not just something that parents and relatives nag people about; it's a pervasive social expectation. I think it's probably there in the states, too, but I'm much more oblivious to it there.

I learn alot from reading my lesson texts. When my teachers actually expound upon the lessons' content, things get even more interesting. Today, for instance, we learned the word for "betray." Someone in class made a mention of Yuan Shikai, and my teacher had a short rant about him. She said it with such bitterness, too.

"We say that Yuan Shikai was far too happy to be the leader. He laughed and laughed about it, and then he laughed himself right to death. Yuan Shikai betrayed China."

This is the kind of stuff I feel like I could never learn in the states, and that's a big reason why I'm so grateful to be studying here for a long time.


At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Teacher Tong said...

We all love idioms.I always remember the Chinese scholar I knew in Canada who loved idioms, his favourite being "knocked my socks off". He eventually ended up working in the Chinese embassy here


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