Learning Chinese

China FlagSo, I need to learn to speak Chinese. Thankfully I don’t need to learn to read or write it, which makes things a lot easier. I downloaded borrowed some “Teach yourself language” MP3s which I have loaded onto my iPod and I’ve been working my way through them since Monday. Well, redoing the first lesson over and over is closer to the truth. I plan to do a couple short courses at TAFE over the next few months because I can only go so far with self study.

Why Mandarin? I do tech support for a global software company and we are getting lots of customers in China because of the massive investment in infrastructure right now. These guys will eventually need to ask questions or will run into problems (not with the software, because that’s perfect) so they’re going to need to speak to someone. We already have Mandarin-speaking staff in Singapore and indeed in Shanghai, but there’s only so many staff. Most of them are away from the office most of the time doing installations, training, audits and upgrades.

Me, I don’t generally travel. I’ve made my preference to stay at home for my family clear to my supervisors and they have honoured that. I generally don’t travel overseas more than once a year. So, I’m almost always in the office. So I’m going to be the one to learn Chinese to speak to our newest customers when they call.

I get the impression that my supervisrs would be happy if I complete a short conversation along the lings of, “I do not speak Chinese. Do you speak English? I can’t help you right now. Goodbye”, or perhaps, “Please hold while I transfer you to Jackie Chan”. But now that I’ve dipped my toe into the warm ocean of the Mandarin language, I’ve set a higher goal. I want to be able to watch a Jackie Chan movie without the subtitles!

I’ve got a question for anyone out there who does actually speak Mandarin: since, to speak the language properly, you need to have the right ascending or descending tones, how does singing in Mandarin work? I mean, the melody of the lyrics follows a natural rising and falling pitch and tone, so does this clash with what is supposed to happen in the spoken language which needs to follow its own rising and falling pitch and tone?