As I begin my journey learning Chinese, I feel quite like Steve Martin’s character in Pink Panther, Jacques Clouseau. You know the specific scene I am referring to already, don’t you? In case you don’t:
Yes, this is me during every Chinese lesson I have had since I have been in China. I am referring to myself as “The Butcher” as I daily butcher the Chinese language. But hey! it keeps life interesting, right? Who doesn’t want to accidentally offend someone when attempting to ask something basic? (Not that this has actually happened to me yet … I hope … oh geez).
One evening heading back to my apartment I stopped in to see shūshu (it means “uncle” in Chinese), he owns a little store right outside of my apartment and it has become a habit to go see he and his wife everyday as I leave and return. He was trying to say something to me and I wanted to reply “xièxie” (Chinese for “thank you”) but it came out “gracias” (Spanish for “thank you”). He just looked at me and smiled. Oh sweet shūshu. He is so patient with me. I’m pretty sure the look on the English tutor’s face in Pink Panther is the same look shūshu and my Chinese tutor give me each time they try to teach me something new.
Currently my tutor is teaching me tones (there are four different tones in case you were previously unaware) and a few different things like fruit, greetings, etc. My tutor will say something to me and I’ll say it back, thinking I’m saying the same thing. Guess what, tones make a big difference. – No, I will not record our sessions and post them for you to laugh at. Just imagine me as Steve Martin and my tutor as the English tutor in the movie. That is about how it goes twice a week.
“Uh weeeerd like tua bebeybee a deberger!”