Writing, and other forms of communication

Crickets since last week with the agent. 😦

I haven’t done too well with my writing either. 😦 😦  That’s not to say I haven’t been working with words, although perhaps not in the way that would seem obvious for a writer.

One of my personal goals for 2013 is to learn a new language. It was my Christmas present to myself: the Rosetta Stone set – the big one, all five levels, with speech, reading, writing, the whole shebang. Because being able to communicate in two languages is akin to having both a FB page and a Twitter account. Speech is the original social media.

I wrestled over which language I actually wanted to take. There were two. Spanish was a heavyweight contender. After all, I live in a state with a strong Hispanic presence, and I adore the cultural vibe of the American southwest – everything from rustico furniture to Latin jazz to the colors of the painted desert. Plus, I minored in French back in college. Not that I’m exceedingly fluent in it today, but I could probably hack my way around Paris in Franglais. (Okay, maybe Montreal.) I figured the French background would be a decent segue into a sister-language. (Spanglish?)

But in the end, me being me, the other language won. I’m taking Mandarin.

You can’t get much different from Western-culture speaking and writing than a Far-East language that has it’s own syntax and writing system. I’m becoming acutely-more aware of this as the lessons progress and I’m still lost. The way Rosetta Stone works, you get a happy-sound when you answer correctly, and a disappointed-sound when you guess wrong. It really is an actual disappointed-sound, like the program is tsk-tsking you. (No! I didn’t mean to guess wrong! I didn’t mean to let you down, Rosetta Stone!) If you don’t do well enough on a section, you have the option to do it over to improve. I like the do-over feature. We’re friends now.

I think if I’d realized how different Mandarin was from English I might have been too intimidated to try. But I’ve already started. (And I’m getting addicted to the happy-sound.) It fits me, though. I’ve had a fascination with the Chinese culture for years. One of my series — the one I’m pitching — spends its first half in the wilds of northwestern Yunnan. This is a province on the edge of the Himalayas that contains the Three Rivers Parallel Region, where the Yangtze, Lancang, and Nujiang (three of the world’s largest rivers) flow very close to each other. It is one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Researching it made me want to visit. I would love to tour the temples and historic districts of Lijiang and Dali before heading off to photograph the mystical landscape that was the basis for James Hilton’s Shangri-La. (Of course, I didn’t plan for the story to be set in China; it’s just how it came out of me. You know how the muse works! 😉 )

The other thing that tipped the scales for me is that I recently discovered that I have a local venue in which to practice Mandarin.

I’ve started treating myself to monthly massage sessions at the nearby mall. However, in addition to the masseurs’ magical knowledge of acupressure, these guys are all Chinese! It was like a sign: my fascination combined with a real-world place to practice my skills. I’m about a week into the lessons. I’m pretty bad at it so far. I mean, I can usually score in the upper-90s on the quiz-type sections, but I have no idea how to really say anything. The guys at the mall wouldn’t understand me. Yet. And my vocabulary is super-limited. I could maybe say “The little boys are drinking juice.” (And then they’d know I was certifiable.)

Anyway, at the rate I’m going I should finish in about six months. We’ll see. Zài jiàn! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Writing, and other forms of communication

  1. Are you NUTS? Mandarin??? Well, I guess if it’s for business, it’s okay… hope you land in Hilton’s Paradise soon… and your novel too. Those guys at the Mall are going to have a field day with you.

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