Things that should be simple, but aren’t.

Part 1 of 10,000

What’s the first thing you learn in a new language? That’s right, numbers. Beijing-bound flights usually have at least one Westerner practicing yi, er, san, si, and so forth. We usually also working on the accompanying handsigns, which, as Copperpoint has said, go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Dude!, Kermit, gun, redrum, Fight the man!

Anyway, we soon learn that a basic concept like “two” isn’t a basic concept. 2 can either be “liang” or “er”, actually. When you want 2 dumplings you use “liang ge” but you receive 2 RMB change as “er kwai”. “Liang” for 2 rooms, or staying 2 nights, but “er” for second floor or room #2. “One country, two systems”, the Chinese euphemism for the Mainland-Taiwan situation is called “y? guó li?ng zhì”.

I’m utterly baffled by 2. How am I going to master “wife of my father’s older-but-not-oldest brother”?

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0 Responses to Things that should be simple, but aren’t.

  1. Stuart says:

    I’ve only heard the “One Country, Two Systems” distinction in reference to Mainland China and Hong Kong, not China and Taiwan. China thinks Taiwan is part of their country, but the Taiwanese would beg to differ. HK, on the other hand, is part of China but has a separate system of government (though Beijing still runs the show). Whoever told you that “One Country, Two Systems” refers to China/Taiwan is mistaken. Also, the Naval battle group that the U.S. deployed near the Taiwan straight a couple of years ago to flex its muscle in relation to the Taiwanese sovereignty issue (though not “officially”) might indicate how much Taiwan is NOT a part of China. Anyway, “One Country, Two Systems” definitely refers to Hong Kong. Otherwise, the Chinese should adopt a new rhetoric: “One Country, Three Systems, One of Which We Absolutely Have No Control Over”.

  2. Meg says:

    You know, I googled it and I think you’re right. Then I asked the adult class who told me in the first place that is might be Hong Kong instead, and they were all really insistant that it refers to Taiwan.

    It’s ironic that the only time I can get people to talk to me about Taiwan, it’s contradicted everywhere else.

  3. Stuart says:

    Yeah, I’m not surprised that people in China are confused about their own government’s policies. Everyone there is so vehement about the Taiwan issue without having really thought it through. The majority of Chinese suffer from a very subtle form of brainwashing; they toe the party line without questioning. The party says, “Taiwan is part of China.” The rest of the world says, “Oh really?” The truth is that Taiwan hasn’t been a part of China since 1949. When I pressed this issue with my girlfriend (who is Chinese), saying, “Taiwan considers itself independent. What right does China have to say differently?” she had to admit that she couldn’t think of a logical answer. Like the rest of China, she just went along with what she’d been taught. See also: why every Chinese person hates Japan. Another national sentiment that just doesn’t make much sense.

    Trust your research rather than the “not-so-up-on-current-events” ideas of your repressed Chinese students. If you get the chance, I highly suggest visiting Hong Kong. It’s a pretty impressive city, and I think you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly that it’s definitely a different system. You’ll probably be surprised at how happy you are to be waiting in a line rather than fighting a crowd of people to get somewhere. Say what you will about British colonialism, but it did have some positive effects on society.

  4. Meg says:

    I think the Chinese hating the Japanese makes a lot mroe sense than “Taiwan is China because… um… someone told me.” A lot of Chinese people have relatives who were killed by the Japanese in WWII, and since then via chemical weapons left in China. Also when the war ended, the Chinese ex-POWs who survived returned home with stories of torture and starvation. All of these things happened in pretty recent memory for China.

    I plan to see Hong Kong in August when my sister visits me. 🙂 I can’t wait! I’ve heard it’s a good place for Western food and obeying traffic laws.

  5. Stuart says:

    Yes, I understand that the Chinese have reason to feel bitter, but how long should a people hold onto that? The Chinese will hold onto it forever. A lot of Jewish people have family that were in the German deathcamps. Does that mean they hate Germans or Germany? I remember seeing something on the history channel where survivors of Pearl Harbor were asked if they held a grudge against the Japanese. Most of them said they didn’t.

    The Chinese’ hatred of the Japanese is somewhat understandable, but I believe that teaching hate to one’s children is a form of evil. Also, China’s bitterness will only hinder their development as a nation. In fact, national prejudice across the board hinders our development as human beings.

    All that stuff happened before the PRC even existed. Most (if not all) of the Japanese who visited these attrocities on the Chinese are dead. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s illogical to blame the children for the sins of the fathers.

  6. says:

    2 is easy. think of “er” as second and “liang” as two.

    so you can actually use “liang” in 2RMB.

    “ti er ge” means “the second one.”

    “liang ge” means “two of.”

  7. Aorijia says:

    Y hate contributing to this kind of discussions, but oh well, once in a while musn’t be so unhealthy.

    The fact is that the Germans have never denied the Genocide committed on Jews as well as other population groups, whereas the Japanese still deny theirs. A century isn’t such a long time, after all!

    Moving on… Meg, don’t surrender. Just some more time, and you’ll find that Chinese has some logic!

  8. Anonymous says:

    stuart is obviously an uninformed dumbass, you should probably read more instead of trying to be like a Bush

  9. Stuart says:

    Very nice, coming from someone who doesn’t reveal their identity. I, on the other hand, choose to not be a coward and hide. Also, I read continuously, which is where I get my information. If you would care to refute my arguments with actual facts instead of name calling, then maybe your baseless remarks might mean something to me.

  10. Anna Zhan says:

    If you’re not way beyond the number 2 by now…

    Think of “er” as “two” and think of “liang” as “a couple”. You can say “a couple dollars” (2RMB) or “a couple dumplings” so you use “liang”, but you can’t say “a couple floor”…you’ve got to say “second floor” or “floor two”.

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