Secret of the Radicals

Tuesday, November 1st, 10 days left

Alarm woke me at 8:30am. Today I have a Mandarin lesson. I got ready, had a few extra minutes so called my wife to say goodnight. Left for class.

Walking on campus there were almost no students. Got to my lesson on time. I had my first male teacher. I mentioned that he was my first male teacher and he quickly explained why he wanted to teach people Mandarin. He’s a Chengdu native who wants a taste of the rest of the world!

He gave me a restaurant lesson, my third, which was GREAT. This time I’m really understanding the words, especially the characters. I had him teach me stroke order on a few words. I was having trouble with the tones, though. Never had that problem before. I did successfully say my “c” after trying several times! It’s the first time that I’ve gotten it right (at least, I’m counting on the teacher’s evaluation). I tried something new. I put the very back of my tongue up to the roof of my mouth and made the sound of a hard “c”, without any initial touch of the tongue, just blowing a lot of air to get a sound. Seemed to do the trick!

I think the tones problem is related to my being sick, which knocked my hearing down a notch. Coughing and sneezing always stresses my eardrums, which take a few days to recover. Anyway, it feels like I can’t hear as well as I could just a couple weeks ago.

The best part of the lesson was learning different names for quail eggs, chicken eggs, duck eggs, all related and similar to each other, both the spoken words and the characters. It was also fun to learn new characters that didn’t use any new sub-characters, so I could write them with proper stroke order right away. This is the “secret of the radicals” in learning to write Chinese. There are some 200 basic strokes. Learn these and you can write any Chinese character, which will just be some combination of these strokes.

Talked with the head of the lesson program, who said I could schedule a few more classes, so I’ve set up Thursday (I head to the airport Thursday afternoon for my Thailand visit), next Tuesday, and next Thursday, and then I’m done. I also asked if they wanted my American magazines. I warned her that they were the popular science magazine, Scientific American, and the statistics magazine, Significance. She said they would be happy to get any American magazines, and pointed out that their library was overstocked with women’s fashion magazines right now.

Back at the apartment, I made my main meal for lunch, fried tofu with peanut sprouts. I closed my eyes and could imagine I was frying greens in North Carolina, except that I didn’t put any vinegar on my dish!


Fried Tofu with Peanut Shoots

Took a well-needed nap, when I sat in bed to practice my Chinese. Got up and roasted peanuts with red peppers and crispy rice, made a pot of tea, talked with my wife, and got to bed around midnight.


About jamescmarch

A child of the '50's in rural Pennsylvania, an adolescent of the '60's in southern California, and a political activist of the 1970's in northern California, I have been a husband, a college graduate, an expert witness, a banker, a father, a software entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. Today, I follow my heart by writing.
This entry was posted in Chengdu, China, Sep-Nov 2016. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Secret of the Radicals

  1. Brian S Childers says:

    I’ve read lots of your posts, March, and have enjoyed vicariously being in China (again) with you.

    Thanks for inviting me on the journey.


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