Friday, March 10, 2006

Chinese customs and language

I've got my ticket to go. Shanghai is ¥15,000 yen cheaper than Beijing (Peking), so I'll start there. Customs rule: It is strictly forbidden to bring more than 20 pieces of underwear into the People's Republic of China. How does one expect to have clean fun in the communist country with only 20 pieces of underwear? I am speechless!

The real challenge in trying to speak to the locals (in Mandarin) will be tones. The word 'ma' can be spoken with 4 different tones and each a completely different meaning.

Since 1958 there's been pinyin, a system of writing the language using the Roman alphabet. A Japanese friend here in Hiroshima wrote an email to me in romaji - it's actually harder to understand than hiragana! Aparently very few Chinese can read or write pinyin. It's no wonder though:
  • c > as the 'ts' in 'bits'
  • r > as the 's' in 'pleasure'
  • x > as the 'sh' in 'ship'
For all you fellow computer nerds out there, there's the Moji extension to help work out the meaning of the written Chinese characters. Here's the tip for speaking the lingo:
Japanese pronounciation differs from Chinese or English in that speakers do not aspirate droplets of saliva. That can be considered one of the reasons for the reduced possibility of transmission.
Sakae Inouye of Otsuma Women's University to Shukan Asahi, about why Japan, with so many tourists visiting China, did not suffer a single outbreak of SARS (November 14, 2003).

So soon it will be sayonara from Japan and everyone in Hiroshima. I will miss everything and everyone. Hopefully nobody will spit on me before I get to China!


popito said...

Aaah spitting! Read a report a little while ago saying that it is the number one target for the Chinese government to stamp out before the Olympics(?). Closely followed by littering!
Have a great trip mate and i'll see you in the Shack for leaving drinks!

Risa said...

I didn't know that you will leave Japan so soon. why don't you tell us in the voice room? I hope to take your lesson before you leave. When will you go to China? I am shocked, anyway...
Alias is exciting! You recommended and I am hooked on it now! Thank you so much!