Do you speak more Mandarin than 34% of China’s population?

product-pth.jpgIt can be frustrating studying Chinese, a.k.a. “Mandarin” or “Mandarin Chinese.” Inside China, the language we study is called 普通话 (pǔ tōng huà) or “the common language.” Before I came to China, I didn’t realize — or fully appreciate it anyway — that every region has a local dialect. People here in Kunming speak the Kunming dialect. It is the language you are most likely to hear on the streets — in restaurants, vegetable markets, and the corner stores. On the university and college campuses, signs are posted for students to please speak and write Mandarin. Presumably this is because the government needs to make sure educated people can speak it. It is also worth noting that classes are (supposed to be) taught in Mandarin, and furthermore the students come from a variety of places and often truly don’t share a common dialect… hence the need for Mandarin, the COMMON (i.e. SHARED) language.

According to an article in the Shanghai Daily, the Chinese government reports that “only 45.1 percent of rural residents could speak Mandarin, compared to 66 percent of urban residents.”

This article is actually about how dialects isolate migrant communities in China. It’s an interesting and worthwhile subject that shares a lot of characteristics with the situation in the U.S. with the Spanish-speaking migrants.

However, I what really surprised were these numbers! If they’re accurate, that means less than 66% of China’s total population speaks Mandarin, less than 66% of Chinese people speak (what we call) Chinese. Weird!

Does that mean I speak more Mandarin than 34% of China’s population?

PHOTO: This t-shirt is brought to you via Sinosplice and it reads: “请讲普通话” which means “please speak Mandarin.”

Clean is Happy

Yes, yes, yes, I know: I haven’t posted in quite some time. I seem to have lost all of August! There was traveling and Jeremy’s birthday (thanks for helping me with that one!) and then someone made me join facebook and… well, you understand. I’ve been distracted.

Elizabeth Jenkins' Facebook profile

School has started again. It’s great. I’m back at Dong Fang (东方) and I lucked out with a wonderful teacher: 赵红 (Zhao4 Hong2). She is probably the most experienced Chinese teacher I’ve had so far. In the past, most of my teachers have been relatively young, uninterested women — not interested in teaching, not interested in learning. Anyway, this is our second week and I’m still happy. I’m also taking a morning class twice a week for speaking (口语) and listening (听力). The teacher for that class is also pretty good. She has a good knack for keeping everyone participating. Pretty remarkable.

These are my books:

First Year Chinese Course, Level 3, Vol. 2 [ISBN: 7-5619-1672-8]
汉语教程第三册下 (fancy new edition! 第十四课到第二十六课)

Short-term Spoken Chinese 3 [ISBN:7-5619-0705-2]
马箭飞 (2004)。汉语口语速成:提高篇。北京:北京语言文化大学出版社。

I’ve already studied the first six chapters of the second book, but I don’t think that will make me suffer too much. We’ll see.

Also, lucked out with some good 同学 (classmates). They seem really cool. Hard to say exactly who will register for the class, but I think for the most part people really like the teacher and they’ll stick around.

On an unrelated and random note… I was reading a thing on just now when I was distracted by an ad. Now this is a good ad campaign! Check it out:


I feel cleaner and happier just looking at their website!

Bent Out of Shape

Online now getting ready for the holiday, searching flights on and browsing photos on flickr. So many beautiful places!

This week my bike got messed up. Argh!

It wasn’t quite this bad:

photo by Dave Pullig

It was parked outside Salvador’s Coffee Shop on Wednesday night (while we were having July 4th festivities) and someone managed to smash into it, bending the front tire to hell. Since it wouldn’t turn, I had to lift the front end and wheel it home on the back tire. Bruised my arm up in the process. Thursday I took the bus, and then Friday morning I dropped the bike off at the fancy bike shop on 一二一 (Yi1 Er4 Yi1) across from main gate of 师大 (Shi1 Da4). I ended up paying an exorbitant 50元 for the repair, but oh well. Anyway, it’s fixed now.

Well, next week is the end of classes. Sounds like our remaining class time will be used learning Mahjong and discussing some Chinese history. Only two of us are taking the exam, so our teacher sent it home with us to complete at our leisure. Yeah, 东方 (Dong1 Fang1) isn’t exactly the pinnacle of rigorous Chinese language learning institutions.

一块 Maaaaadness!

Miraculously, Jeremy not only healed my iPod, but also poisoned the cockroaches. Yes, things are looking up!

Speaking of that miraculous man, Jeremy has totally out-blogged me lately! His latest: Our friend Beth in Washington D.C. went to an exhibition at the Smithsonian yesterday which featured a Yunnan cultural extravaganza. Pretty cool. She was especially excited because she’s planning on visiting us in August. They even had Pu’er tea!

Jeremy also has a nice story about how he caught a pickpocket. Very dramatic.

Yesterday, my friend Jessie introduced me to a secondhand clothes market here in Kunming. I hesitate to mention it, because everyone I tell seems to be totally grossed-out by the notion of secondhand clothes in China. Even (maybe especially) Chinese people. Anyway, I recommend it. It’s very similar in quality and cleanliness to most thrift stores in the US. It’s set up as a cluster of small storefronts. Everything is on hangers and organized by style or size. Mostly out of style, slightly strange clothing. The best part, though, is that it has a surprising amount of Western brands and (more spectacularly) sizes. I have Western hips, and so it can be frustrating trying to find a good fit. But really it was not an issue at this market. They even have some vintage stuff, which is fun! Prices are incredible. A few stalls had a pile of clothes for 1 yuan: “Yi kuai maaaaadness!” A lot of stalls had racks of clothes — skirts, shirts, jeans — for 5 or 10 yuan.

How do you get there? Hmmm… northeast of the intersection of 人民西路 and 二环西路, it’s on 茭菱路 (jiao1ling2 lu4) just west of the slightly smaller drag 近华浦路 (Jin4hua4pu3 Lu4). It’s on the 85 bus line. I think the bus stop is called 丰宁小区 (Feng1ning2 Xiao3qu4).

gigantic, flying roach

Well, this week hasn’t been the greatest.

On Wednesday, Pizza left for Thailand. She’ll be gone for 9 months. She’s been tutoring me for quite a while, so I was really sorry to see her go. She set me up with one of her classmates, but it looks like her friend doesn’t actually have any free time outside of evenings and weekends. Sigh.

Yesterday, my other study partner, April, told me she’s starting some classes, so she won’t be free to study with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays any more … at least for the next few weeks. Argh!

And now my iPod’s broken and there are gigantic, flying roaches (maybe just one… ok, two) in my home.