Language Lessons —by Jinny Batterson
(On the occasion of Chinese New Year, January 31, 2014, ushering in the Year of the Horse. A memento of sorts, too, to my intermittent efforts to make progress in learning Mandarin Chinese, along with my ongoing struggles to read people’s moods appropriately.)
Chinese, such a difficult tongue to master:
Is this syllable spoken slowly, or faster?
First tone, second, third, or fourth, falling?
Is it “apple ping” or “bottle ping,”
Or maybe even “TV screen ping”?
Past leader Deng Xiaoping,
Current president Xi Jinping,
Or some less known local student Ping?
Emotive language harder still to learn.
Is the reason for your stoic scowl concern
At the widening rich-poor gap?
Or did our waitress,
Flustered in this festive season,
Accidentally spill hot coffee on your lap?