I am a pro at ordering bubble tea. Telling a street vendor that “my parents don’t give me money because they don’t love me” so they should totally give me that fake bag for five less kuai? No problem. And the words just spill out of my mouth when a cyclist cuts me off as I try to cross the street. Bastard.
My Chinese language abilities were pretty OK…sub-par on most days, yes, but they got me from morning to night without eating arsenic covered rat meat or getting ridiculously ripped off in the process.
However, as I try to broaden my “Chinese vocabulary” horizons and become more proficient in my speaking and reading abilities, I realized a good attempt at self-teaching was in order. If I wanted to be able to stand with confidence in front of a board room of Chinese men (after they had all gotten their pictures taken with the white girl of course), I would need to really have a solid grasp on this language. I would need to have agility with the words in which I chose, an ability to flow freely from sentence to sentence, all while sounding coherent and intelligent in the process.
In my mind, there really was one and only one way in which I could do this.
And it came in the form of the free OK! China Magazines that were in the lobby of my apartment complex. I stole one in the morning when the security person was getting his breakfast and snuck it up to my room. It sat there for a week collecting dust while I convinced myself that this project was a worthwhile pursuit. I knew I could really sound professional if I knew how to say faux-leather mini-skirts in Chinese.
After a week of procrastination and time spent watching old episodes of Glee, I finally convinced myself to read and learn.
So far the work has been slow but steady. I took two more magazines, one with Martha Stewart and another one about Motherhood – both of which will prove to be useful and highly practical for my current everyday vocabulary needs.
With Yellowbridge.com out to write characters on my phone and get their definitions and nciku.com out as well as Google Translate in case any of the other two translating sites failed, I began to plug away.
With any luck, by the end of the year, I will be able to explain to you all in Mandarin just how Martha Stewart is dealing with her post-pregnancy blues by adding spice and leopard print patterns to her wardrobe. And if that’s not useful, I simply just don’t know what is, to be honest.