Monday, 27 October 2008

Ni Hao Capitalism

He kele

All five of us stare blankly at the pinyin syllables on the board as our tutor leads us through their pronunciation one by one. It's our first morning of Mandarin classes, and so far we've gone through the gamut of juh, chuh, zuh and qus, the oas and ous and all the other uncomfortable consonants and vowels which have left our jaws feeling just a tad worn out. Our teacher smiles at us with an impossibly friendly grin, which hasn't left his face all morning. It could be reassuring if it weren't so forced.

"You are about to speak the first Chinese sentence," he tells us, grin spreading wider. "Please repeat: hur kur-luh". Each of us tries in turn, until he is satisfied with our pronunciation. "Now", he says, "what does it mean?" We stare at him blankly.

"This one," he points to the 'He', "is a verb. It means to drink. This one is a noun. Kur-luh. What do you think this means?"

The girl next to me makes a timid suggestion. "Cola?" she asks.

"That's right. Cola. So what does this sentence mean?"

Noone answers, so he tells us.

"Drink Coke." Another wide grin.

Mao is presumeably turning in his grave.

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