Learning Chinese

Hey guys, you overlanders and other globetrotters pick up a lot of languages on the way, right?

Well, last night, I sat on my bed and found myself looking into Mandarin (blame that virus) and realized how natural it is in a way.

Many years ago, when China was only just starting to open its doors a little bit to the outside world, I attended a Chinese fair which was still very pure Chinese back then. Fascinating. I loved the music. May have been in 1982.

I picked up “hello” from a Chinese course I saw on TV one day and from an Italian course lesson that I watched, I picked up “I want a package of x, please”. When one day, I had to call someone in Italy and said “Buon giorno. Vorrei parlare con signore X, per favore.” I got a cascade of Italian in return, so it worked. (No internet in those days.)

Anyway, this evening, I remembered that I had wanted to look into Mandarin. I have picked a Chinese name for myself, namely “pebble in water” and have meanwhile more or less learned to say in Chinese

“Hello, I am (should be) called pebble in water. I am Dutch.”

你好. 我叫水中的卵石. 我是荷蘭人.     (<- Eh, I hope.)

By tomorrow morning, I am sure I will have forgotten.

What still confuses me is that different Chinese people – as do people in other countries – have slightly different pronunciations, for instance, of the “j” in “jiào” (“should be called”).

It’s a wonderful language because it seems delightfully logical and intuitive, much more effortless than all the hard sounds of Germanic languages. (It has some of the juiciness of Portuguese.)

And the fact that you need to derive many meanings from the context probably says a lot in itself and may make things much easier in practice. (What practice? Ha ha. I will have to start watching Chinese YouTube videos etc eventually.)

But the tendency for high notes is not that easy for me. I usually speak in a much lower voice and end many sentences on a low note. I will need to learn this the way you learn a song, obviously.

The various sh, zh and ch sounds are a bit tricky too.

How many languages have you tackled along the way?


Chinese = in-country person
American = nice-country person
English, British = English-country person
Dutch = Dutch blue person? Presumably “blue” refers to water? Dutch-wetland or lowland person?
German = German-country person


One thought on “Learning Chinese

  1. Ha! I did remember when I woke up, but then I discovered that someone had played a little joke on me and instead of “pebble in water”, I’d become “water from a pebble”!


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