Monday, January 31, 2011

Xie xie

Flipping the calendar to February means that our trip to Beijing is only 18 days away and anticipation is growing! The more I learn about China, the more I realize how totally different it is from the United States.

For starters, its history goes back many centuries, and the United States is an infant by comparison. Its languages bear absolutely no resemblance to the West Germanic languages that I am familiar with such as English and Dutch. Did you know that Mandarin Chinese is the most natively spoken language in the world, followed by Spanish and English?

Chinese characters and sounds are so foreign to me that the only way to learn the phrases is to memorize the pronunciation. Today I learned "thank you" which is pronounced xie xie (sheh-sheh).

Those of us who are going on the trip are researching some of the major tourist attractions in Beijing, so I spent some time tonight learning about Chinese opera. I think I can safely say that there is no corollary in the U.S. and that it is probably an acquired taste. Check out this example:

This description on the West-meet-East website describes Chinese opera well and explains why it would be interesting for us Westerners to experience it: "Chinese opera has little in common with Western opera, and the screeching falsetto of the singers, the loud clacking of the clappers and the noisy banging of drums and cymbals can sound strange to Western ears. But it is the costumes, variety of facial expressions, the actors' eye expressions and martial arts movements that mostly attract Western audiences."

On a side note, I happened across what is probably the Chinese equivalent of an old wives' tale: a Chinese Gender Chart. According to the chart, my daughter's baby which is due March 1 will be a girl. We'll see...

Other preparations for the trip include working collaboratively with my classmates and professors on the presentation we will be giving at the Flat Classroom Conference. We've met several times via Adobe Connect, Skype, and Google Chat to analyze, design and develop our joint project, and will continue to do so until it is time to implement and evaluate it. In a way, we're using the ADDIE model to produce a presentation about ADDIE.

Xie xie to Dr. Z and the University of Northern Iowa for the opportunity to experience China firsthand!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ni hao!

In about a month, I'll be going with a small group of fellow students and professors from UNI to Beijing, China. We will be participating as instructional technologists in the Flat Classroom Conference for part of the time, but there will also be time to tour some educational institutions and see some of the attractions of the area.

None of us can speak Mandarin Chinese (or any flavor of Chinese, for that matter), but we want to learn some common phrases so that we won't be completely helpless while we're there. I came across a helpful website that can help us reach that goal: Digital Dialects. I'm going to try to learn some of the words in the categories called Phrases & greetings and Phrases & greetings 2. There are lots of other websites that can help us accomplish the same thing, but this one looked less intimidating and even kind of fun.

By the way, the image above is Chinese characters for "ni hao" (NEE-how) which means hi or hello. According to the Urban Dictionary where I found the graphic, if you add "ma" to the end (as in "ni hao ma") it means How are you doing today? -- probably in the same way that we sometimes greet each other with an informal "how ya doin'?" instead of saying hello.

Fellow traveler Brandi Day is finding Google translate very helpful. Type in an English word or phrase and then you can listen to the audio translation and view the Chinese characters.