It is All Chinese to Me

I am not lazy, but I lack aptitude for language learning. Unless I have a goal it is hard to motivate myself to buckle down and really learn a language. Other stuff drifts to a higher priority.

I am trying to learn Chinese, again. This is my third try. Language isn’t my thing, even in my native tongue when I need words they just don’t come. One reason that I rarely post is that it takes me longer than a day to pull together a response.

When I traveled to China before, I have been twice now, it has been with a lot of dependence on other people. I have managed surprisingly well and had some great experiences (see Let’s Go Fly a Kite, A Picture and a Phrasebook Saved the Day, and Happy Mama).  But this time I decided that

  1. I really want to be able to communicate with people on my own.
  2. I want to go to a couple of places that are not on the western tourist track on my own.

I only decided to go about two months before takeoff, a very short time for someone who is all but tone deaf to try and learn a tonal language.

Before my first and second trips I tried using two different book plus CD programs. With the first, I ran through it once then listened to it in the car. After almost a year and a half of doing that, including several trips to and from California where I heard all three CDs twice a day, I made almost no progress. I was unable to recognize the words when someone other than the canned voice spoke them, or come up with them myself in real life situations (Although, I can say nihao and xiexie). But worse than that, I really could not speak the phrases in the phrase book. I couldn’t figure out how to follow and correctly pronounce the pinyin (Chinese phonics system). Nor could I recognize if someone responded with a phrase in the phrase book.

With the second I just couldn’t get into it. I think it was designed more to be used as an aid in a class where the instructor took you through it rather than working on one’s own. I took that one with me to China last time and tried to work on it in the morning then go out and listen for the phrases. I never recognized a thing.

This time, with six weeks to go before take off I started an on-line course ( This seems to be going better.  It helps to be able to see the person forming the words, and they focus on how the tones sound in a variety of real words (saying “ma” five different ways many, many, many times really didn’t help me). It also has a Chinese on the Street segment so you can hear a variety of voices using the material in context. So every morning now I am spending 45 minutes to an hour studying Chinese.

I know that some people have a better ear, are more linguistically oriented,  and are more courageous about trying than I am, but I really think the idea that one can just pick up a language with no effort is blarney.

T – 14 days for my real life test, I’d better get back to work.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lazy Learners.”


A Trick of the Light

Fjordlands in New Zealand.
Fjordlands in New Zealand.

My old, and very faithful, Canon A510  would occasionally create a monochrome, almost black and white effect when the sun was really bright and sparkly. Technically it is probably an error of some sort and I could never make it happen on purpose, but sometimes I liked the results.

Looking north at the north end of Four-mile beach in Port Douglas Australia.
Looking north at the north end of Four-mile beach in Port Douglas Australia.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Monochromatic.”

Forbidden City Finger Magnets

The dragons of this decoration seem to be finger magnets; they are well polished by the caresses of people passing through this not-on-the-attractions-list area. Other parts of the design don’t seem to have attracted the same attention.

Notice the shiny gold dragons?
Notice the shiny gold dragons?

People were lined up (more or less) to touch this lion head handle on one of the water vats.

hadn touching the Lion handle of a water vat in the Forbidden City.
Finger magnet.

This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sense of Touch. These are a few almost quirky pictures I took at the Forbidden City because I found it interesting that people were allowed to touch and there seemed to be a  few things they almost couldn’t resist touching.

Chinese Connections

Connected with wires:

Chinese building with a lot of electric and/or communication lines coming in.
Well connected house.

Connected by water:

Human connections:

Connecting over a game of chess.
Connecting over a game of chess.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connected.”

Is there an “Elvis Effect”?

If numerology and astrology are ways to understand yourself and plan your life, then why not use the song that was number one the year you were born? How might that work?

Music has a strong influence on us, (think for example about the Mozart Effect) and I am very sensitive to noise, somewhat ironic since I am all but tone deaf. Could the music we hear when our brains are forming be a factor in who we are?

When I looked up the #1 hit song for when I was born, I more than half expected that I would never have heard of it, since it was a bit before the British Invasion music that mostly played on the radio when I was young. Instead it was Be My Little Good Luck Charm by Elvis. (I didn’t realize what a hunk he was!) I could definitely imagine my parents dancing to it. They were extremely young (17 and 23) when I was born. Since they were so young the hits were probably what was playing (my husband and I were a bit older when we became parents and mostly had an oldies station playing).

The things I liked about Good Luck Charm were that is has a nice beat, not too fast or too slow, a pleasant melody, and nice words. It is a pleasant song with a cheery air to it. I would like my life to be that way, and mostly it is. Although sometimes I have to stop and, as the Africans say, “pull up my socks”*, in order to keep it so.

Could there be an “Elvis Effect”? The next question might be: how would someone who’s number one is heavy metal filled with swearing approach life? To find out what was playing when you were born check out the birthdayjams website.

*I love this saying. It makes me remember the feel of socks bunched down around my arches. A reminder that sometimes in order to go faster sometimes you have to stop and make adjustments, then get going again.


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Number One.”

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