Foreign Phrases

For those of you who haven’t put yourself through the torture of learning Mandarin, here is a brief explanation of the nightmare I’m currently going through.

The Chinese language is made up of 4 tones (5 if you count the neutral tone). Google Translate isn’t always the greatest tool for translation but it works in this instance.  As you can see from this page,, pronunciation is extremely important. (The pronunciation for ‘ma’ is below the box on the right.) One wrong move and you’ve called your mother a horse.  Also, the characters on that page are “traditional” characters. They are almost solely used in Taiwan and are generally more complicated to read and write than the “simplified” characters found in mainland China.

Adding to this delightful mix is pīn​yīn.  Pīn​yīn is a phonetic pronunciation system used to assist those folks reliant on a Latin alphabet system (such as myself) how to pronounce characters.  Pīn​yīn is very helpful up to a point. The problem is that people become dependent on it and then it becomes more difficult to learn characters.  That’s the boat I’m in right now. It’s not as though menus are written this way.  Every sign, menu, and bus schedule is mostly written in characters.

I just want you all to know that this is the hardest thing ever!  That being said, it’s a great challenge and I really enjoy learning it.  I’m planning on posting more Chinese words under the “foreign phrases” series so I wanted to give you a bit of background.






Pronounce it:

                  This is a tough one to pronounce. Loosely put the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth and say “ruh” in a sharp descending tone. It helps if you keep your teeth closed. This is 4th tone – my teacher calls it the ‘angry’ tone.



It’s so hot here!  It’s unbelievably hot all the time.  I know some of you are suffering in the desert heat and some of you don’t have air conditioning but it’s SOOO hot here.

The locals carry around umbrellas to protect them from the sun but I refuse to carry one because the idea of carrying anything but the clothing on my back makes me fear fainting.  I’m afraid to walk 6 blocks home with milk because I’m certain it will spoil by the time I get there.

I would have hope for an upcoming fall season, but I fear I’ll never experience it as evidenced by this t-shirt I found at the weird grocery store.


  We’re doomed.


  1. Concetta
    Aug 10, 2013

    What was it like before 1988? Also the comment box tried to tell me my name is Vince not Concetta. So now I’m Vince.

    • vegas
      Aug 10, 2013

      So great to hear from you Vince! It’s been ages! How are the kids?

  2. Aimee
    Aug 11, 2013

    I don’t know what that re word is supposed to sound like bit if I do it that way it sounds like Luh.

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