20 December 2006

Mandarin ain't nothing

Okay, I had heard that Chinese was a difficult language. Compared to Japanese, this ain't nothing. Observe:

我是斯蒂芬 (I am Stephen in Mandarin, and I cheated finding the characters for my name using BabelFish.)

Well, 我 is "I" (used for "I" sometimes, but mostly for "we" in Japanese) 是 is "be" 斯蒂芬 is presumably a phonetic spelling of my name. You'll notice the subject-verb-compliment construction. Also, no article markers. Also, no verb conjugation. Literally "I be Stephen." Granted, you have to nail the tones (one of four, or nuetral), but compare to the same sentence in Japanese:


This took three different kinds of writing to accomplish. I had to use a subject marker は and the sentence is literally "I (marked) Stephen is." Your subject-compliment-verb construction. And you may be saying, "Yeah, but Stephe-o, how hard is that, really. You just gotta swap." Believe me, man, it's a whole new kind of thinking.

So, although I should be packing (I'll be in America in three days), instead I'm learning how to say "This is a pen" in Chinese.
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