Posted by: rbbadger | August 2, 2008

Still in China

To get an idea of just how far Hong Kong is from Beijing, keep in mind that China is a vast country, about the same size as the USA.  Hong Kong is quite long distance from Beijing.  If you were to compare things, it would be about the same distance from Amarillo, TX to Philadelphia, PA. 

That being said, the concept of time zones seems to be lost on the Chinese government.  Every city in China, no matter how far east or how far west is on Beijing time.  Even the largely Korean populated provinces up by the border with North Korea are on Beijing time.  We are an hour ahead of China back in Korea. Tibet, in the far west, is on Beijing time. 

In looking at the Chinese language, I must say how grateful I am to King Sejong and his marvelous invention.  Learning to read Chinese is a tricky business and learning to write it trickier still.  Unfortunately, though, while I can easily find Chinese characters just by looking up Korean words in the English-Korean side of the dictionary and vice versa, actually finding a given Chinese character that I don’t know and have no idea of the pronunciation is very, very difficult.  I think I showed Kelly all that you have to go through to look up the meaning of a word just from the Chinese characters alone. 

Still, learning Chinese now is far easier than it was at any time.  So many software programmes are available.  Plus, the Chinese government has mandated the use of pinyin, a way of writing Chinese characters in Roman letters, in teaching Chinese to children.  It is an important stepping stone in relating the sounds of Chinese to the characters.  Taiwan uses an older system, but at least for Mandarin, pinyin is superior.  It won’t help you much with Cantonese, though.  Cantonese has another system entirely for Romanising the language.  But for both Cantonese and Mandarin, there is a wealth of materials available.

One difficulty encountered in learning Korean are the frequent updates that come down from the Korean government.  Recognising the superiority of the hangeul script, the Korean government desperately does not want Korean to come into a situation like English or French where the spellings are truly awful.  Thus, the Korean government legislates certain changes in spelling to keep up with the realities of a changing language.  Thus, even my main Korean textbook, Ross King’s fabulous Elementary Korean, is a bit out of date because the spellings have changed a little bit.


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