Sunday, March 16, 2008


one of my favorite projects of the moment is teaching myself mandarin chinese (with occasional bouts of pronunciation help from the boyfriend, complete with laughter on both sides at what a mess i can make of it). it's very odd compared to my other foreign language experience -- since i currently have a lot more time in the car than i have free time elsewhere, i'm picking up the audio side of it more quickly than the written one. (many thanks to the pimsleur audiobooks downloaded from the library and fun podcasts like chinese learn online and chinesepod.)

today, i sat down and started trying to catch up, at least a little, on reading and writing. i got a little frustrated -- i had pdfs with lots of characters i wanted to learn, but i was depending on this site for animated gifs showing how to draw them with the right stroke order. however, to search for a particular character, you need to be able to paste it in from somewhere. this character dictionary is actually pretty amazing for going from pinyin* to characters, but going through multiple webpages was getting a little tiresome...

then... the benevelont electronic overlord** wins again! i got curious about how on earth a person types when a writing system has thousands of characters. there are other input methods, but one of the wikipedia articles mentioned that google pinyin is one of the implementations for translating pinyin to character. so now, i can change my input to chinese in the language bar, then type in pinyin without the accents and select the right characters as i go. i think if i keep typing, it'll use context to decide the right characters for me... but let's face it, there are few enough words that i can spell correctly in pinyin right now that it's a little hard to test.


*=the standard system used to romanize chinese. it's phonetic, but i still have trouble with it... my brain won't admit yet that 'q' sounds like our english 'ch', for example.
** i think i owe that terminology to will... so appropriate, though.
*** should be pronounced with appropriate degree of language-learning lesson perkiness. when do i ever say goodbye to you on a normal post?


malachi said...

I experimented with learning Chinese from a coworker. I finally decided that there is no way that my brain will accept a tone language in a meaningful time span and I gave up.

kait said...

i was doing alright until i found out that there were two completely different words for "two" -- 二 (er4) if you're counting vs. 两 (liang3) if you're talking about two of anything. but all the other numbers seem to keep the same form. i have a feeling it's gonna get a lot weirder before it's over...