Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Bruce Lee Legacy

Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language in the world. There are twice as many Mandarin speakers as English speakers. If you want your students to learn a language that will be useful to them in the future, I suggest learning Mandarin. I have collected a few links to help you. I am amazed at the number of great free videos out there. Some of my long-time readers will remember that I lived and worked in China for 2 years. I didn't learn much Mandarin, but the fact that I tried a few phrases opened many doors to me. Just learning a few phrases can break down many barriers. Speaking of barriers, this week I have posted a couple of my old China Diary entries from 2006. Hope you enjoy them.

China Diary - The Bruce Lee Legacy

One of the teachers on staff this week had one too many people stare at him in the street. Someone came up, invaded his personal space and stared long and hard. The teacher pushed the offender aside but decided to do some staring of his own and went up to the Chinese gentleman and invaded his personal space in return. Loud and heated words were exchanged, that neither side understood, and a crowd began to gather. At this point the teacher decided he had made his point and left. Another teacher hearing this story suggested that confronting the person was highly dangerous as there was a good chance he was a martial arts expert. The truth is the average person in the street here is just as likely to be a martial arts expert as you and me. I get the feeling that most Chinese people don't have time to drop in the local Shaolin monastery to steal a stone from the master's hand or to practice flying through the air in slow motion wearing pyjamas. Like Australians, they are basically too busy trying to earn a living and keep the tax man at bay and they really just want peace and quiet. Now and then when I am out for dinner someone across from me will have a good long stare with their mouth agape. I fight them with the deadliest martial arts move I have, the Australian wink, click, shake of the head and smile. It may take me three or four winks but I always end up subduing them by forcing them to smile.

China Diary - Happy With Uncertainty

Despite the excitement I experience every time I enter a supermarket in Guangzhou for another shopping adventure, it would be nice if, just for once, I could take an Chinese Australian interpreter with me so that searching for simple items that I take for granted at home, would not be such a chore. Take toothpaste for example. You would think that even an inexperienced shopper like me could find a tube of standard peppermint flavoured toothpaste in the supermarket. Not in China. There are literally hundreds of different flavoured toothpastes on the shelves. Up until now I have been buying toothpaste according to the pictures on the packet. The first week I didn't even realise you could have different flavoured toothpaste and ended up with a Colgate tube that was honey flavour. It tasted sweeter than honey and I am positive it was actually causing more tooth decay. I persevered for a week with the honey before returning for another attempt. The time was just as bad. I asked a shop assistant in my best Chinese for peppermint toothpaste and came home with something that tasted like charcoal. Next time I studied the pictures on the boxes carefully and decided the picture of a mint leaf on the pack assured me I would get peppermint. Unfortunately it must have been a picture of a tea leaf as I have been brushing everyday with what tastes like a cold cup of tea. I am nearly out of toothpaste again and who can guess what flavour it will be next time. In China you have to be happy with uncertainty. I think this time I will just open a few packets and taste them all until I find the right one. It is no wonder the Chinese think foreigners are strange.

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