Dreams of White Tiles . . .



Filed under: Uncategorized — Roddy @ 6:59 pm

Relatively quiet last week, after a fortnight which kept me busy with a bunch of freelance stuff. Mostly translation but I’ve started getting a small amount of copy-writing work as well, which adds a bit of variety. Also did a piece for Thats Beijing’s back column last month as the incumbent was unavailable. I don’t actually like it very much on reading over it. It’s certainly not a tone you could sustain for very long without getting very boring.

Been working on a new website for China Development Brief, which will hopefully see the light of day in the coming month. All going well this will allow them to get information online much more easily than their current somewhat singular set-up. I try and avoid taking on too much internet work as it’s not actually something I enjoy all that much, but in this case it’s a relatively interesting project and the CDB folk are very good to work with.

PinyinLyrics.com is now up and running, after what was a long gestation period even by my standards. Not many songs on it yet, but you can register and add more if you want.

I’ve been using the current lull in work to get back to some Chinese study. I was pondering taking the HSK Advanced exam in October, but decided that there was no way I was going to be able to learn to write by hand in time (unless I actually studied hard, which is clearly daft) so opted not to do that. Instead I’ve done something I’ve allegedly been doing for years, which is to go back to basics and work on my speaking. This has been my weak point for some time, largely as a result of my last regular job, which involved reading huge amounts of Chinese.

It’s quite a depressing process as I find myself having conversations like this:

Other: Hey, what you doing?
Me: Studying.
Other: Oh yeah, what you looking at?
Me: Oh, just some incredibly basic vocabulary like ‘friend’ and ‘cat’.
Other: I thought you said you’d worked for a year and a half as a proofreader in a major translation agency and are currently taking time off to pursue further study while doing whatever freelance translation work came up.
Me: Yeah, but you see . . .
Other: Fraud! You suck! Just admit you teach in an elementary school!
Me: But wait . . .
Other: Hey! Guys! Wait till I tell you about this loser . . .

I’m assuming that if I’m going to get the tones right I need to know what the tones are, so I’m currently going back to an elementary textbook and working through it fairly quickly, memorising the vocab properly as I go. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be – I’m not sure I’m enough of a perfectionist, or even any of a perfectionist. It won’t do any harm though, except perhaps ruining any credibility with people who previously saw me hanging out with a copy of 财经 and a 王朔 novel.

Things should speed up when my tutor gets back from her holiday. She’s actually really good, post-grad student of CFL at BLCU, and can do stuff like say ‘your second tone is starting too high’ rather than say ‘No, second tone! Second tone!’ which is as good as a lot of Chinese pronunciation tutors can get.

Currently listening to 跳房子, reading science fiction, watching Carnivale and feeling guilty about this. Oh, and taking photos while walking home drunk.


  1. Like these dark pictures. Are the panoramas at the top of the site yours too? They’ve been consistently good.

    BTW, your sign pic is up at the work unit. Thanks for snapping it.

    Comment by zhwj — 9/6/2005 @ 7:00 pm

  2. The header images are all mine, often cropped out of pictures I took for Signese – you wind up with a lot of pictures of walls with that site . . .

    Will take a look at Danwei – I’d like to put that picture on Signese, actually, but I try to avoid Chinglish pictures. That one is pretty special though, so I might make an exception . . .


    Comment by Roddy — 9/6/2005 @ 9:20 pm

  3. I laughed out loud when reading your That’s column, it’s hilarious!

    Comment by Lu — 9/6/2005 @ 10:59 pm

  4. I think it’s the wide format, cropping out most of the identifying features, that makes your headers so interesting. I really like the woman sweeping the water and the girls walking across the empty courtyard.

    Comment by zhwj — 9/7/2005 @ 1:52 pm

  5. i am giving up on learning chinese if it takes that much effort. i mean really. minimum to hold a half way decent conversation would be about 6 months in china, with about 4 hours a day five days a week.

    Comment by austin — 9/8/2005 @ 1:49 am

  6. I’m wary of saying ‘it takes X months to reach Y level of Chinese’, as so much depends on what kind of learner you are. However, it’s certainly not as difficult as I might make it sound – I studied by myself and never took any formal classes, so I’ve got a very patchy knowledge – I might be able to read a contract very smoothly, but if I had to ask for a paperclip to hold the pages together, I’d probably be lost. It’s going back and filling in these gaps that is causing my problems at the moment, especially in cases where I’ve developed bad or sloppy habits that are hard to change.

    Comment by Roddy — 9/15/2005 @ 11:59 am

  7. I’ve found that it helps me to read out loud to somebody who is willing to correct my tones, especially for basic words and stuff I need to review. If you can try this with a tutor or someone, it might help.

    Comment by Micah — 10/29/2005 @ 3:51 pm

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