Sunday, July 19, 2009

My first language lesson

They say the first thing you learn in a new language is something bad, like how to swear. I'm not the kind of person for whom that would normally be true, but in the case of Chinese, it kind of is.

I was 12 years old when I learned my first phrase in Chinese. You see, my best friend then was Chinese American, and she and her mom would often converse in Mandarin in my presence. Once, in an effort to join in, I spoke some random gibberish, and accidentally said, "Ni you mei you" which means, "Do you have . . . ?" or "Have you . . . ?" So my friend decided it was high time I learned something, and springing off that she taught me, "Ni you mei you fan guo pi?" Which means, "Have you farted?" She also taught me how to ask someone if they pooped their pants. I asked those two questions of every Chinese person I encountered thereafter. No, I'm kidding.

But learning that did come in handy yesterday in the swimming pool locker room. There was a woman, her daughter, and her friend dressing next to me. While trying to avoid the woman's naked and freely moving near me body, I overheard a little noise escape from her daughter. The friend then teased her saying, "Hey, who farted? Was that you?? Did you fart? It was like a little song!" and so on. I think she was a little surprised when I started giggling into my locker. I'm usually more mature than that, but it amused me that I understand what she was saying.

So thank you Vicki Chia, for my first launch into Chinese language. Thankfully I've gone beyond my auspicious beginnings, but they are still helpful from time to time.

No comments: