We had Mandarin class this morning, and it turned into a discussion of bar vocabulary: “drunk,” “wine,” “beer,” “bar,” “a bar called peach.” We now know 9 verbs: want, have, am, eat, drink, go, like, call, miss. Maybe some others too. The adjective are varied and delightful: drunk, happy, excited, confident, tired, lazy, small, patient, angry, difficult, etc..
We can make sentences and have a conversation! We can say, “the beaches in Hong Kong are not beautiful,” and “I have a book, but I don’t have a computer or a cell phone,” and “I want to go to the bar to drink red wine.” We even did existential vocabulary: “Why?” “because,” “but”.
This has been the third Mandarin class in my life. Which is why I love learning new languages: your learning curve is incredible. A week ago, I could not say, “how are you?” and now I can ask if someone would like to go to the beach with me and drink white wine and water. Progress!
I wonder if I will ever use it without fear of saying something terrible. 9 and alcohol sound exactly the same, 4 and death are one tone apart, 8 and fortune are one letter different. These are only some of the homonyms I know. It’s been 5 hours.
In class I am fully willing to embarrass myself, it is low risk. In the real world, I don’t want to say anything until I am pretty sure I can be understood. Maybe I’ll hang around people speaking Mandarin more so I can see if they really sound like what we do in class. Probably not. Either way, I’ll soon start saying things in Mandarin to random strangers to see if they understand!
Or maybe I’ll embarrass myself in front of my students who know Mandarin already; they’ll laugh and think I’m adorable. At least they’ll know I’m not telling them, “I want death peaches.”