I bought Harry Potter in Chinese. My adult students were shocked and appalled that I spent so much on a DVD, comparative shopping is a competitive sport here and every time I mention anything to do with shopping, someone tells me where I can get it cheaper or offers to buy it for me next time. One of my students promised to take me to the cheaper place to buy movies. (I didn’t know how to tell her that I can read things like “Exit”, not “This Version Has English Subtitles”) I thanked her for the offer, and then explained that ultimate escapist movie has a price beyond money.
Kristine and I used to watch the HP movies whenever one of us had a test, a paper, a bad day or the realization that we were due to graduate. So I have the dialogue memorized, and I thought the Chinese version might help me with my Chinese. By the way, in Shandong province, Mandarin is called Chinese. The existance of Cantonese may be acknowledges, but it is considered a dialect spoken by uneducated southerners. It’s good to know that mocking dumb Southern hicks is universal.)
Whenever someone here finds out that I’m learning Chinese, they ask me to say something in Chinese. When I comply, there is one of two reactions. The first is to correct my pronunciations, usually by shouting “No! No! It’s qie xi, not qie xi.” where the first and second qui xi sound exactly alike to me. At first, I thought I was mispronouncing something mundane into something unspeakably rude, but I’ve gotten the shout so many times that Mandarin can’t possibly have that many swears. It’s like that scene in Flitwick’s class when Hermione tells Ron “It’s LeviOsa, not LevioSA!” Only all day, every day. My younger students think my Chinese is really funny — I’m able to bribe them to be quiet by promising to count in Chinese at the end of class.
The second equal and opposite reaction, is to shout with amazement at my brilliant Chinese level. I have a very small vocabulary, and I can only grasp subject-verb-object sentences using that small, small vocabulary. Any adjective, adverb, or conjunction is totally beyond my grasp. If your pet lizard talks to you, as Prof. Barton would say, you don’t criticize his grammar, you’re amazed that you have a talking lizard. And a foreigner mispronouncing Mandarin… well, it’s not a very flattering comparison for foreigners.
Anyway, I’ve been practicing characters and studying Chinese every day, and I think I’m making progress! Just last night, I was watching Harry Potter and I understood a 5-word sentence!
But I’m not sure if “Shi LeviOsa, bu shi LevioSA!” really counts.