Xinran Blog

Archive for the ‘Chinese language’ Category

I am still on my book tour for China Witness in wintery Australia

My schedule is very busy – 19 interviews for radio, TV, newspaper and magazines and 9 talks at book stores, city hall’s and libraries in 5 cities across Australia. I arrived in Melbourne two days ago.

Do I still enjoy it? So far so good, I have always got energy from Australia, in the same way, I can see many Australians get energy from China and the Chinese. More Westerners speak Chinese here, not only because many Chinese live here, but also because most Australians are open minded people! As an example, how many world leaders can speak Chinese, the second largest language in the world? The Australian Prime Minster can!

I always say that any foreigner who can speak and read Chinese must be a genius. There are about 80,000 Chinese characters in total and at least 3773 are used daily. The Chinese study these characters from the age of 3, if they are born into families that can afford to educate their children.

The Chinese barely had a proper spoken language before the 20th century. Before then, well-educated people spoke ‘written Chinese’, and uneducated people spoke in very short sentences, or just used verbs. In many underdeveloped agricultural areas, instead of speaking long sentences with adjectives and adverbs, they used to communicate through song.

China has a pronunciation system called ‘Pinyin’ based on the same alphabet as English, and with four tones. It was set up by a group of Chinese scholars after they returned to China from Europe in the 1900s, and it was completed in 1950s by Mao Zedong’s communist government. I must say the Pinyin system has really opened up the possibility for communication between the Chinese and Westerners especially since computers have come to dominate our world!

Chinese computers have the same keyboard as Western ones, with 26 letters and numbers. Each year more and more kinds of Chinese typing software come out, appearing as fast as the new buildings in China’s big cities. For Western learners, I would say Pinyin typing is the easiest way to write characters.

For example: if you type in MA many characters appear on your computer screen – all pronounced as MA and these are ordered into different groups according to their tone. MA–, mother, question word,…; MA /, linen, a tingling feeling…; MA~, horse, shoe size,…; MA、,swear, argue… then you simply choose the right one for your word or sentence! Normally, once you have typed in a character the programme will suggest a number of connected characters for you to choose next.

Ok, I am sitting here at midnight writing this because I am too tired to sleep, but now I have to go back sleep as I have a very busy day tomorrow.

Nin hui shuo zhong-guo hua ma? (can you speak Chinese?)

Wo hui shuo zhong-guo hua. (I can speak Chinese.)

Xiexie!