Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

Late-night talk radio
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So since coming home, I'm trying to spend at least half an hour a day studying Chinese. I'm doing pretty well at it, since I have sooooo many materials: I brought home language books and kids' books and DVDs and maps and guide books to places I visited . . . the list goes on.

But so far, my favorite method of studying Chinese is to listen to Harbin radio stations. So here's how I did that this afternoon (and this is the part that really, really blows me away and shrinks the world to the size of an angel on a pinhead) - I streamed my favorite radio station to my android phone, and listened to it while I pedaled to work today. O, brave new world, that has such programs in it . . . who would have ever imagined?

So I pedaled along, and realized why radio is perfect for me right now. I think the best thing is that I'm picking up the Harbin station in the middle of the night, usually, since there's a 12-hour time difference. Today I left for my office at around 2:30. At that time of night, the station is playing radio dramas. Radio dramas provide good content because the narrator speaks slowly and with exaggerated emotion, and because certain elements of the story repeat. Today's drama involved Zhou En Lai, and that's about all I can tell you . . .

The other morning, though (I think it may have been Saturday) the program was a call-in show and the topic was parents and children. That was even more entertaining. I didn't quite know what the topics were, but I could tell when the moderator was exhorting a caller or sympathizing; and I was struck by long passages in which it seemed like the moderator was preaching, almost. I'm starting to get a feel for the rhythm of formal speech, and also for the repetitions.

On the simple word level, if I listen when I'm NOT bike riding, I write down the words I can hear repeated to look up later. But on the rhetorical level, I'm also hearing repeated phrases, and even though I don't understand the words, I think I understand the structure, and could create some sentences with the same patterns. Soon I'll give that a try . . .

I truly do feel as if I've hit the end of the steep learning curve. It's still not the world's easiest language to learn, by any means, but at present I can move myself forward, and that's all I want.

And thank heavens for the internet in all of this . . . (Al Gore really knew what he was doing, I tell you . . . )

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