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a little less [chinese] conversation?

My Chinese 101 class is composed of four different kinds of people - business students (roughly 75% of the class), international and second-generation students, myself, and Lorenzo. The business students see China as a growing marketplace to be courted over the next several years, although a few are interested in entrepreneurship rather than international trade. The international students in our class come from Japan, Hong Kong, and Macau, while there are also second-generation students who speak Cantonese fluently but who would like to add Mandarin to their linguistic repertoire. Plus, there's a girl in class majoring in English and linguistics that I talked to outside of class on Friday, but more on her later.

Lorenzo, unfortunately, is in a class of his own. On the opening day he introduced himself to everyone within a ten foot radius by telling us his name and boasting of how he just got back from six weeks in China - over and over again. A girl sitting near him had spent a full semester studying at a Korean university, and when Lorenzo heard that he began talking about the Korean alphabet and explaining how it uses a romanized script based on the Latin alphabet. She shrugged apologetically in response, but when I joined the conversation to say that Hangul is an indigenous alphabet rather than a romanized derivative he got really defensive and blurted out, "what, are you a linguist or something?" Not exactly, no, nor would one need to be to know that information.

A few minutes later Lorenzo was talking to another new entrant to our classroom and relating his exciting news of spending six weeks in Kunming, and during a pause for breath Lorenzo's conversation partner was able to mention how he speaks fluent Cantonese. Lorenzo immediately perked up and told the second student how he really wanted to learn "how to read Cantonese characters one day" - which seems perplexing since Mandarin, Cantonese, and a large number of other Chinese dialects all use the same characters even if they are pronounced differently (some of these also appear in Korean hanja and Japanese kanji). I turned around to get more details but was severely disappointed:

"Say, I thought Cantonese and Mandarin were written using the same characters?"
"Yeah ... so what?"
"If they are you wouldn't need to learn how to read Cantonese, because you would already know the characters from learning Mandarin, right?"
"Dude ... whatever!"

And with that he turned back to his companion and continued to share the details of his trip. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and from what I can tell this seems to fit Lorenzo's education quite well. His behavior suggests that he only learns enough to impress people unfamiliar with his chosen subjects, and his quick dismissal of anything contrary to what he says indicates that he doesn't really want to know the facts. Yuko was on the same trip to Kunming, and she later told me that she doesn't like Lorenzo for the same reason.

However, it seems the aspiring linguist had been listening to our exchange, and when I greeted her at the university bookstore at the end of the week she seemed vaguely interested in hearing about my linguistic background - but only to the point where we had a five minute conversation before she returned to her sushi, wasabi, and giant textbook on syntax.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2006 03:18 pm (UTC)
from the little I've read, I already don't like him...

lately we've imported a batch of Chinese labor into our company, today I had the great opportunity of practicing my craptastic mandarin on how to work the clock-machine.

the result was I need to pull a colleague in to speak to the guy... haha...

oooh from Macau? interesting! Amazing how so many people make it out to the grand overseas to study! (in cantonese we say they were "soaked/marinated in salted water" when they come back, though I have no idea where nor how that particular phrase came from)

You might find it interesting to know that many colloquial (sp?) Cantonese sayings are not correct in Standard-Chinese (Mandarin) so even if it's written down in characters not all chinese will understand either. (I guess that salt water marination phrase is one of them)

and thank you. Words cannot express my gratitude. :)
Aug. 31st, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
Obviously I can't tell anyone how to use a clock-machine in Mandarin (or Cantonese either), but with the one we had at my old job I couldn't even explain how to use it using English. hehe.

I really like the expression "marinated in salt water" ... it captures the feeling of being overseas and soaking up another culture. (which probably explains why it's used in the first place) Thanks for pointing out how not all sayings make sense between Mandarin and Cantonese, as it's probably not something I would have thought about on my own.

Right now I'm excited about looking at the parts that make up some of the characters - like how 'ask' is made up of 'door' + 'mouth' - and learning how they're related. :)

You're quite welcome, but I also wish there was more I could do to help.
Aug. 30th, 2006 08:57 am (UTC)
Wow, what a nice guy, I really feel like meeting him < /sarcasm>

But seriously the part about learning Cantonese characters made me giggle. A lot.

We want more Lorenzo stories :D
Aug. 31st, 2006 07:13 am (UTC)
If I end up with any more Lorenzo stories I'll be sure to share them with you - but if I'm lucky he'll stay quiet for the rest of the year and I won't have to listen to him anymore. :D

Glad you got a nice giggle out of it though! ;)
Aug. 31st, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
I'm not that sure this kind of guy ever stays quiet for long ;)
Sep. 2nd, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Why did you have to be right? haha.
Aug. 30th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
haha this Lorenzo guy is a giant joke!
Aug. 31st, 2006 07:14 am (UTC)
Should I tell him you said that? :P
Aug. 31st, 2006 07:20 am (UTC)
I think you should!
Except if he has lots of acquaintances in Paris who threaten to kill me.
Aug. 31st, 2006 07:32 am (UTC)
You shouldn't have anything to worry about - if Lorenzo does know anyone in Paris they probably don't like him either!
Sep. 1st, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
It's emma2403's French journal, I've added you here too, hope that's okay :)
Sep. 1st, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
en français
That's quite alright, although I'm a little surprised you would want to read my entries twice. Is this because of the Shostakovich comment? ;)
Sep. 2nd, 2006 10:51 am (UTC)
Re: en français
I won't read them twice, I only read emma2403's friendspage anyway.
Sep. 1st, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
Grrr... what a pompous ass!! I seriously LOATHE people like that!
Sep. 2nd, 2006 06:50 am (UTC)
You and me both. At least he's not in a position to give me orders like your situation with the marketing supervisor.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )