Sunday, March 13, 2011

An Epic Post Where Feminism and Chinese Collide


I don't know why I'm so in love with Chinese.

But I guess it all started a couple of summers back when I got those silly language-learning CDs at the library (you know, where the people talk like robots and you're expected to follow along). Being the tech-savvy kid I was (lie), I burned the CDs to my MP3 player and started learning simple phrases on my daily bike rides. The neighbors must've thought I was crazy - zooming around and talking to myself in a weird language - but those are some of the happiest times I can remember.

After that particular summer, my love for Chinese exploded. I started watching Chinese and Taiwanese dramas online, listening to Mandopop (popular Mandarin music), and even using the language in conversations with my mom (she didn't have a clue what I was saying).

At school, not only did I jump at the chance to take Chinese as my foreign language option, by some miracle I also summed up the courage to perform a Chinese song at my school's Culture Night, despite the fact that I had never - I repeat, never - sung in front of people before:



Best. Decision. Ever.

Considering I started out as one of those I-love-anime-and-everything-from-Japan teeny-boppers, it's weird that my tastes changed so suddenly and unexpectedly. I've learned not to dig too deep into it, though, because learning Mandarin has definitely become one of my Top 5 Passions in Life, right up there with feminism (can I get a "woot-woot"!), doodling, and preparing perfectly-proportioned cups of coffee with plenty of chocolate-raspberry creamer.

I've been waiting so, so long to confess my love of Chinese to the world (i.e. the people who read this blog), but I could never find a way to make it relevant to the stuff I usually talk about.

Can anybody say "loophole"?

Let's learn feminism-related Chinese words!

Alright class (can you tell that I'm loving this?), please call me 老师 (lǎoshī, pronounced "loud" without the d, and "sure"), which means teacher.

There are many aspects of Chinese that will be too hard to teach in a single blog post (I suggest checking out this site if you want to learn more), but I'll try my best to explain the following words and phrases:

Women's Rights: 妇女的权利 fùnǚ de quánlì
The word 妇女(fùnǚ) means woman and is pronounced "foo-new." This is usually tricky for English-speakers to pronounce because the "ǚ" sound is pronounced like in the German word "über."
的 (de) is a possessive participle and is pronounced "duh".
权利 (quánlì) means power, right, or privilege, and is also harder for some people because the "q" makes a "ch" sound, contradictory to how "q" is pronounced in English. Finally, the "uán" in "quánlì" sounds like "oo" and "en" (as in "end") blended together, and "" sounds like "lee."
Put the sounds together: foo-new duh chooen-lee
Click here to hear how the word is pronounced!
Women's History Month: 妇女历史月 fùnǚ lìshǐ yuè
We already learned 妇女(fùnǚ), which means woman, in the first phrase. It's pronounced "foo-new."
历史(lìshǐ) means history, and is pronounced "lee-sure." Try not to pronounce "sure" too intensely, though. It's a very soft sound, almost like you're saying "shhrrr."
Finally, 月(yuè) means month, and is pronounced "y-oo-eh" (again, with the "eh" sounding like the "e" in "end"). Make sure you're not pronouncing the sounds in a choppy manner, but make them flow.
Put the sounds together: foo-new lee-sure yooeh
Click here to hear how the word is pronounced!
Feminism: 女权主义 nǚquánzhǔyì
女() is pronounced "new," just remember that the "ǚ" sounds like the German "über."
权(quán) is pronounced fluently as "ch" + "oo" + "en" = "chooen"
主(zhǔ) is pronounced "joo." Most people see a "zh" and assume the English pronunciation "zzz," but in Chinese "z + h" make a "j" sound!
义() is pronounced "ee." Do not pronounce the "y."
Put the sounds together: new-chooen-joo-ee
Feminist (Person): 女权主义者 nǚquánzhǔyì zhě


This is the same as the word above, just add 者(zhě) at the end to change the meaning from feminism to feminist. 者(zhě) is pronounced "juh."


Put the sounds together: new-chooen-joo-ee juh
I am a feminist!: 我是一个女权主义者! Wǒ shì yī ge nǚquánzhǔyì zhě!

Characters:                   是      一     个      女       权        主      义      者

Pīnyīn:                     wǒ       shì       yī       ge        nǚ      quán        zhǔ        yì       zhě

Pronunciation:       wah     sure    ee     guh     new   chooen     joo        ee       juh 

English:                     I           am             a                                feminist


4 comments:

  1. Hate to be picky, but 史(as in 历史) is not really pronounced "Sure", but more like "sh" with a R sound at the end.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Anonymous - I know, but the pronunciation of "shi" is a hard concept for people who've never studied Chinese or learned to read pinyin. I was trying to appeal to THOSE people by exaggerating the sound using a recognizable English word.

    And did you read the whole article?

    I did make a point to say:

    历史(lìshǐ) means history, and is pronounced "lee-sure." Try not to pronounce "sure" too intensely, though. It's a very soft sound, almost like you're saying "shhrrr."

    I really did try to keep the integrity of the language! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. By the way, thank you Talia. That means a lot :)

    ReplyDelete

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