This set of Chinese Nike advertisements were made for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and require no language to be understood.
Maintaining my proficiency in Mandarin has been a constant challenge. Instead of taking structured classes I have been trying to find ways to at least maintain what I have already learned. I am grateful that Vancouver’s great population of Mandarin speakers has given me opportunity to use the language in everyday life. One challenge I have experienced is that most of the Mandarin speakers I meet have a better English vocabulary than my Chinese vocabulary. It is only natural for people to default to the most descriptive of shared languages so that opinions and stories are more likely to convey their intended meaning. In these situations, English clearly remains the default language and highlights one of the benefits of learning in an immersion environment.
While looking for inspiration on ways to overcome such challenges, I found a Wikibook called “how to learn a language“. One good piece of advice is to listen to audiobooks in your target language. So where does an English-speaker find Chinese audiobooks? A link to the free audiobooks at LibriVox of works in the public domain brought me to discover poems Tang Dynasty (618-907); specifically a work compiled in 1763 called Three Hundred Tang Poems (唐詩三百首).
To practice my pronunciation, I have been listening to a poem called 佳人 (Alone in Her Beauty) by 杜甫 (Du Fu). It helps to have a copy of the poem to read at the same time. So I have prepared a version in Simplified Chinese that I found online and added pinyin for anyone like me that would find it helpful.
佳人 (Alone in Her Beauty)
I live in a building that is a cross between a dormitory and an apartment. In 2007 I kept my food in my room for safety until I found a mouse in my room. Then I kept most of my things in cupboards in the shared kitchen. At least 30 people have access to the kitchen; furthermore, anyone can enter the building (and the kitchen) without a key. Only the bedrooms are securely locked. In the past year my dishsoap has disappeared three times and an occasional fork or spoon was taken, but today I lost some significant items.
All my dishes are gone: bowls, plates, and plastic containers. My most useful frying pan and a small saucepan. Several other convenience items and foods are missing. It’s not surprising that a thief would remove locks, but this thief takes the time to put the locks back!
Until I have a solution, the floor of my small room is littered with cooking equipment. Foods that a mouse would enjoy must remain in the kitchen. I met a neighbour while I was taking things back to my room and he says he’s lost cooking oil, dishes, and other items. Someone here is robbing from all of us. Even if I could cook, I don’t have anything left to eat from.
I’m afraid that my food will be stolen. My new neighbour is rude and loud… probably a thief too. A mouse is now living in the wall beside my bed. 哎呀！ This is the second time I’ve had this kind of neighbour since I moved to the International House in Halifax.
Update: The building owner arrived with poison today. No one had told him about the mouse, but his timing was perfect. Problem solved? I hope so! Friends with cats are especially invited to visit anytime.