Monday, December 8, 2008

Another mission accomplished

I bought a bowl of "re gan mian" today (hot dry noodles), which was the final item on the list of things that I wanted to buy from a street market. The Wuhan style of this dish is famous throughout China. It's made by boiling fresh rice noodles for about a minute, then straining them, putting them in a bowl, and then throwing a bunch of sauces on it (like sesame oil, for one..the others I'm not sure about). I almost feel bad only dishing out 2.5 RMB for the stuff; it's really unique and so delicious. Anyway so now my confidence in speaking to street vendors is at an all time high, so in celebration I've made a list of Chinese phrases that I use most often. It's kindof funny that the little Chinese that I know, while restricting, generally allows for a similar dialogue that I would normally have with people from the US. I'd never really realized that the phrases you say a lot often say a lot about you, but it's true I think. The list is in order of frequency of use, not preference.

  • #6) Hao kan de (clothing item) -- This means "Nice (clothing item)!" or "your (clothing item is looking sharp." I love giving compliments to people, so this was the first phrase I learned coming here. I tried to say it to a girl who was wearing a nice hat in the first week that I was here, but she said (the equaivalent of) "huh?" It's pretty difficult to pronounce well...

  • #5) Duo shao (qian)? -- "How much (does it cost)?"

  • #4) Bu zhi dao -- Simply, "I don't know." I say that a lot whenever someone gets the impression that I can speak Chinese and tries to say anything more than "where are you from" or "what would you like to eat?"

  • #3) Ke yi -- The most general meaning of "ke yi" is "it's ok," but I equate it to a phrase that I used to say all the time, namely "we're good." You can also add "ma" to the end of this phrase to make it into a question, something I enjoy doing very much. For example, if I go to a store I ask "wo yi ma?" which means (I'm pretty sure) "I'm looking around, is that cool?"

  • #2) Mei guan xi -- i.e. "it doesn't matter," but I liken it to "whatever" or "I don't give a rat's ass." Love saying it in it's many variations in the US, love sayin it here.

  • #1) Dui = This is the sickest word to say, so I try to say it as often as I can when the time is right.... It's pronounced "Dway" and you sortof lower your voice as you say it. My favorite time to use this is when I get in a taxi and explain to the driver where I want to go. He then says a bunch of things, and if I interpret them to be correct, I say "dui." An accurate translation is "correct," but in certain situations it can also mean "exactly," "affirmative," or "no doubt." Maybe the best translation is just the word "yeah," but it's a little different.


Diana said...

I'm impressed with how much you've learned so far! How are you learning Chinese? How do you know how to say it and spell it? Nerdy questions, I know. Remember that I <3 language.

Evan said...

SO... I don't really know much more than this haha. Basically I can recognize whenever words are spoken frequently, so I ask what they are and how to use them. My coworkers are pretty capable speakers, so I usually just have them teach me. Spelling the way that I did in this post is called "pinyin," and it takes a little while to understand how to write down a word that you hear. I guess the way I learned was, simply, trial and error. If you're asking about writing chinese characters, I'd say I know about 30-40. I also speak a little Chinese every day to my coworkers. Also it's helpful to know the phrase "what's that?" so when you point at something, someone (not necessarily an english speaker) can tell you. It's how I learn most of the foods I eat nowadays.