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 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'
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!