Many years ago I studied Mandarin Chinese as part of my teaching degree. It was my first chance to learn a language, and I loved it – not just learning a language, but learning such a meticulous, neat and very beautiful language. For someone who was never neat at handwriting (still am not!) I was obsessive with tracing characters and learning stroke order – spent hours every day, which was reflected in my precise characters, and my grades. I loved it! Unfortunately, we started our specialisation with two years left of our degree – sufficient for most languages, but to pass the proficiency test required to teach Mandarin, you needed the third year of study. (Mandarin is a very tricky language, because of those characters , and too, voice intonation that affects meaning.)
I always planned to finish my language studies externally, but life was busy (I loved classroom teaching … then mothering … and writing) and sadly I never did finish that third year of language study. Worse! As the years passed, I forgot much of what I had learnt – and loved!
When I spied this poetry collection a number of years ago, I had to have it. 300 Gems of Classical Chinese Poetry. I am so glad it includes both characters and Pinyin – because I definitely need the Pinyin to help with pronunciation and inflection. I see characters and I know I should know them – but I don’t. (How can a brain forget so much!)
Today, I was just going to share a poem with you from the book. A little gem…
Fan Yun (451 – 503)
East and west of the Farewell Town
People part, going up and down.
When I left, like flowers fell snow;
Now I come, like snow, flowers blow.
But then I got a little carried away, and this happened…
It’s very short. And simple! (Simplicity is key – because I’m hoping it avoids grammatical errors.) But I did it. A poem. In Chinese. (You’re right – the rhyme got lost in translation. And I am quite okay with that!) I was reliant on online resources*. (I have since hunted up my much-loved Chinese-English dictionary!!) But maybe I can tease my brain into remembering more… And what better way than through poetry. So much to love about that!
Something else I love… During the recent ‘Celebrating Our Stories’ tour, I met up with a former Yr 2 student who I taught almost (🙊) 25 years ago. She recalled that one of her favourite things was the unit where I incorporated my Chinese studies into our classroom – teaching them how to talk about their family. And then and there, with no rehearsal, she started speaking the family phrases we had learnt … with perfect intonation.🤯 I was astounded that she had retained something so precise from all those years ago! My 💓…
Wǒ hěn gāo xīng 。
Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is hosting Poetry Friday this week, with a moving poem about grief.
Post Script: Oooops. I scheduled this post on Tuesday… and then I remembered some of you talking about DuoLingo last week (I’m looking at you Mary Lee, et al.) and thought I might check it out – see if it would help with relearning Chinese… And it does! (Translation: Kat fell down a very big hole! I may be starting to remember more than I realised… Chinese conversations are rolling through my head. Mandarin is still addictive!!💖)