School daze

Week five of Mandarin wrapped up on Friday, marked with a test on chapter six. So far, we have been taught things related to ordering food at a restaurant (or a stall), introducing oneself and others to new people, , trying on clothing, buying a car (new or used), and discussing likes and dislikes, one’s family, the weather, and people or things in terms of their nationality, fatness or thinness, height, temperature, etc.

Different kinds of nouns have measure words, which serve kind of as articles do in English.

一個人. Yí ge rén. One MW person.

三杯可樂. Sān bēi kĕlè. Three MW cola.

我有十五張相片. Wŏ yŏu shí wŭ zhāng xiàngpiàn. I have 10+5 MW photos.

We’re learning those as we learn the nouns, and of course all the proper grammar to put everything in the right place.

Last week we learned words for family (down to the different words for cousins from your dad’s older brother and cousins from your mom’s side) and our address one day, and our shapes and colors the next. This week we learned big numbers (they put their comma after four digits instead of three—gah!), how to talk about ones thoughts, and different genres of music.

Lăoshī likes to ask the class who likes doing such and such and what our favorite things are. When someone surprises her by liking something she wasn’t expecting, she either laughs and asks “Really?” in Chinese or gives a slow “Ahhh” and a knowing smile that says she thinks that because now she knows I like rock and roll (translates to shake and roll here), she’s got my number.

Our classmates are great. Ever since the departure of Greg the bully, the class has become quite close, considering we speak upwards of seven languages between the eight of us.

Hui Chien from Japan sits right in front of me, and the poor girl almost always has to go first because she sits furthest to the left of the classroom. She also often gets paired up with me, another reason to feel sorry for her, as I often don’t have more than an inkling of what’s going on. But Hui Chien helps me in her limited English and our mutually limited Chinese, even when I’m having the worst day in class and blubbering like a baby because I’m completely lost in an activity the rest of the class seems to be having no problem with.

Xiong Ji is the other Japanese student, a trendy guy with pink shoelaces and hair bleached to orange (upper-middle range on the blonde-black hair continuum of coolness in Japan). He’s always got a smile on his face, but it’s questionable whether that’s to hid his confusion with what’s going on. The guy’s taking classes for Mandarin and English—one right after the other—so you’ve got to give him credit for that.

Ji Ro is a petite Vietnamese who is already at the point where she can converse with Lăoshī with little difficulty. She likes to point out errors when we write answers on the white board so we can fix them before Lăoshī gets the chance to do it. The girl is good.

So good, in fact, that the Vietnamese guy who sits next to her, Ting Hua, gets help from her all the time, presumably in Vietnamese. During tests the two of them titter back and forth the whole time, with no one making any sign of noticing it. Otherwise, Ting Hua is a skinny guy who always wears a red ball cap and shares Xiong Ji’s goofy smile.

Ismo hails from Turkey, and he’s showed up for all of three classes on time. Despite coming in late everyday, he seems to have a pretty good hold on what’s going on in class, at least conversationally. He sits kitty-corner in front of me, and his test scores are never as high as I would expect from the way he goes on in class. He lives in Yonghe City like we do, but we have yet to bump into him around the ’hood.

That leaves Pascal, Colin, and me, or Ba Si, Hu Lin, and Nike as we are known in class. You hear enough about the three of us, right?

Lăoshī says the classes normally stay together if students stay for the year, and we can even request to have her as our teacher again next quarter—maybe I’ll put together a yearbook.

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