Recently, 爱香1 enrolled at a 上海大学校2 learning 中国語3. On Friday night, the whole department threw a party to welcome in the new school semester, and all their new students. But to tell you the truth, I guess 大学生 will take any excuse to party!
As we went in, we were asked to write our names on a sticker, and stick it on ourselves. Probably so people who forgot our names wouldn’t go all night calling us ‘dude’. We were also asked to reach into a plastic bag and pull out a number. This was written on another sticker and stuck under our name. This didn’t serve any purpose that I could see. I did see a guy whose number was ‘69′ enthusiastically showing off his luck to his friends though.
爱香 introduced me to her classmates. I guess everyone was a little shy about using Chinese though, so all the Koreans were together speaking Korean, the English speakers were all together, the Japanese were huddled together. The Koreans were outnumbered everyone else, so 爱香 stayed with them, chatting away. She speaks Korean from living in Seoul for three years, and I listened on, anxiously checking japanesepod101.com on my PDA to see if the Korean survival phrases had been uploaded yet, so that I could chime in on the conversation. No luck though.
After a few ビール were passed around, everyone relaxed a little. Isn’t that always the way! Everyone felt a little more comfortable speaking Chinese to each other, and I stopped stumbling through 日本語. I met a guy called 金4 and some of his friends, and had a chat with them. I found the Korean group especially friendly with each other; 金 seemed like a big brother to everyone and it seemed like everyone had known everyone else for a long time. 爱香 often says how なつかしい she is for her days in Korea, and how friendly the Koreans are. She has said before how everyone in Korea is like a big family and after meeting 金 and his friends (come to think of it, I think they were all called 金) on Friday night I understand. The Korean group was a happy medium between the strict structure of the Japanese and the brash friendliness of the Chinese. I understand that also linguistically Korean is a blend of Chinese and Japanese.
As I mentioned, alcohol broke down barriers. Everyone stopped speaking in their native language, and defaulted to 中国語. I was happy for it too. On a most basic level, language opens doors. And I don’t mean metaphysical doors or business opportunities, or opportunities for self-expression. I mean if there’s a Korean dude, and an Australian dude, and one wants to ask the other, he’s up **** creek without a paddle unless he can actually open his mouth and say something that the other dude will understand.
It was a great night for a language fan like me. I spoke Japanese to Japanese, Chinese to Japanese, Chinese to Koreans and Chinese to Australians. Wow, that’s quite a confusing sentence. I guess I could make it a bit clearer with the help of Kanji: I spoke 日本語 to 日本人, 中国語 to 日本人…etc ‘I spoke Japanese to Japanese’ doesn’t really work in English. It was also great to be in amongst a group of language students. It’s often hard to talk in a foreign language to someone right off the bat, and it was great to just open your mouth and let fly with Chinese, without having to think ‘well you’re obviously not Chinese so I feel a little silly speaking to you in Chinese’.
A great night!
４ “jīn” in Chinese, and I think it would be “Kim” in Korean. Maybe Keith先生 can confirm. I’m not sure what this 漢字 would be in Japanese, but if I’m right that it’s “Kim” in Korean, maybe we could say that it would be 『キム』. But when it’s the word for ‘Friday’ it’s 『キン』. A little help?