Sunday, October 23, 2011

中文 - Week 3 (New Practical Chinese Reader 1)

The book I am using is New Practical Chinese Reader 1 by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press. This is not a Mandarin language learning program and I am no teacher. This is a personalized journal of my Mandarin language journey, and the target audience would be other students of Mandarin, beginners if possible. Let’s start! But before we do please watch the video after or while reading, it’s meant to complement the content of this blog article. If you watch just the video and not read, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. Volume 1 of the book has 14 lessons. I only study Monday to Friday, two weeks for each lesson, which means it will take us 140 days or 28 weeks to finish the whole book. Target end date is April 13, 2012.

MONDAY: Lesson Two - 你忙吗?
Today I read the first dialogue aloud in the video to practice pronunciation. Tomorrow we review the words used in the dialogue. As for this blog let us focus on set expressions, since phonetics would be covered in the video anyway. We only have two fixed expressions today, and it is all about asking about somebody else. We already know how to ask you how you are. It’s time to ask how your parents are doing! And how to answer. Okay. So basically, you just add the words for mother 妈妈 and father 爸爸 in the middle. So you ask, 爸爸, 妈妈 好吗?The first, second to the last, and last characters form that very common expression we learned during the first week. You just inserted the words for mother and father. How do you answer? If they are well, you say 他们都很好 which means “They are both doing fine.” We go down to the level of individual words tomorrow. For now, just keep these expressions in mind. It might come in handy one day.

TUESDAY: Lesson Two - 你忙吗?
Again, I would no longer be listing any vocabulary here, by that I mean individual words. I already do that in the video so why bother doing it again. The characters are also shown there anyway. Let’s keep this blog entry exclusive for set expressions, and the one which we have today is asking someone if they are busy or not. It’s just like the expression for “How are you?” but you change the second character, so “Are you busy?” would be 你忙吗? How to answer? Just say if you are or you are not! “I am busy” is 我忙 so it is more like a juxtaposition without a verb, but it would be useful to note here that the Chinese love to use to connect the subject to a simple adjectival predicate, so you are more likely to hear 我很忙 which would literally translate to “I am very busy” even if they are NOT VERY busy. They just use it for fluidity I guess. What if you are not busy? Add that particle that negates predicates: to have 我不忙 to mean “I am not busy.”

WEDNESDAY: Lesson Two - 你忙吗?
The second dialogue is very short and is all about asking if someone wants coffee. Of course, coffee is just one of the options and is just used as a model for the formula. The book uses the verb to mean “to want” which you would later find out to be a rather strong verb. There are alternatives but they don’t come until the later chapters so let’s stick with this one. It’s easy because it’s just one syllable and you drop it like it’s hot because of the downward tone. “Do you want coffee?” is 咖啡 ? If “I want coffee” I just say 我要咖啡 but if “I don’t” I just say 不要 totally eliminating the “I” and the “coffee” since the context is already clear. I don’t think you would have to answer in complete sentences in situations like this. It’s not a classroom, people! It’s a cafe!

THURSDAY: Lesson Two - 你忙吗?
For some reason, the words for older brother and younger brother are introduced in the second dialogue. If you have not seen the video and you are curious, “older brother” is 哥哥 while “younger brother” is 弟弟. For the right tones, watch the video. How can you make your “I want coffee” sound different? Add “also” or drag someone else into also wanting coffee with “we all” 我们都. How do you do it? “I also want coffee” would be 我也要咖啡 while “We all want coffee” (or “we BOTH” if there are just two of you) would be 我们都要咖啡. The character should come immediately after the pronoun if you would like to denote an idea of togetherness.

FRIDAY: Lesson Two - 你忙吗?
Since the video of the day was all about practice exercises, let us talk about grammar in today’s blog entry. The grammar points are still the same, all about the adjectival predicate. In English we usually us the verb “to be” to link a subject and a predicate. In Mandarin they usually just juxtapose the two, or they use to connect them even without wanting to mean “very”. They also use “also” and “both/all” but the grammar is very specific in terms of position that they should come before the adjective. There you go!

Anyway, I asked the Ateneo Confucius Institute here in Manila regarding the scope of the HSK Basic 1 which is the lowest level of the exams and they told me that it covers Chapters 1 - 8 of this book. Cool! The HSK has 11 levels, and the first three which comprise the Basic won’t really get you anywhere in terms of qualifications, but I don’t care. Even if it takes me 11 years, I am taking it slow. What’s the rush? I believe that extra attention is key when it comes to foundation specially with Mandarin. I’ll take the first three levels of the HSK slow, maybe after that I could already go to China to study, that’s when progress would be fast and won’t be hard because of the good foundation we are building! So there.

See you next weekend! For next week I would be covering lesson two on writing Chinese Characters . Let’s see. The goal is to pass the lowest level of the HSK in September 2012! =)

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