So, dating a Chinese woman has made me realize that speaking only one language is a little like showing up to a three legged race with only one leg. It's kind of hard to tie onto anyone and you're probably going to fall flat on your face when you do. Not mention it's just plain embarrassing. Minxi speaks four different languages pretty well and I, well, I know how to conjugate "y'all" and can use "dang" as four different parts of speech.
By now Minxi and I speak a version of English that anyone would recognize. I lose her if I talk too fast and she loses me sometimes if she substitutes a word she knows for one she can't remember. At first things were rough. It was English learned from a textbook up against my solid wall of Honkyness.
I call the language we spoke at first "Minxi hua." "Hua" is the Chinese word for language. What we spoke was a language but not English or "Photong hua" Mandarin. If you get involved with a Chinese partner, you may find yourself surprised by how quickly you develop your own language. Here are some handy tips based on Minxi and I's custom language.
1. English uses way to many words. You know all those little words, "a" "the" etc.? Forget 'em. Just say what you have to say. "I am feeling a little ill today." Is totally overworking things. Try "I sick."
2. Chinese grammar is so much easier than English grammar. Minxi's father was an English professor so her vocabulary was good from the start. The creepy way English words move around in sentences was a major puzzler to her. Give your girlfriend a hand by picking up a little Chinese grammar. It's way easy and makes you look smart. Minxi and I still use a lot of sentences that are English words strung together in Chinese order. Let me give you some examples.
In Mandarin, word order tends to say the same even as tense and question forms come and go. To say hello in Mandarin you say, "Ni hao." Literally this means "you well." and is a polite way to say hello and hope the best for someone at the same time. Now if you want to say, "Are you well?" You don't have to change anything, you add what's called a particle to the end of the sentence, in this case the word "mu" which in Chinese means you are asking a yes no question. So "Ni hao." Hello. Becomes, "Ni hao mu?" Are you well? Most of the other question words work the same way.
This means that my questions to Minxi make a lot more sense to her if I put the question word at the end. "You say what?" "We go to where?" English words, Chinese grammar. The handicapper that gives a hopelessly one languaged guy like me the edge.
This straight structural style holds true for tense changes too. "I went to the park yesterday, or will go tomorrow, or am going now," are all the same in Mandarin. Simply say, "I go to park" and add the right tense particle. I don't know all these yet but I do know how to say, "I go to park tomorrow." or "Yes, I already go."
3. After you've been practicing pigeon English for a while, you'll find that sticking the Mandarin words in becomes easy. I'm not fluent by any means but I can flirt and that's where the rubber meets the road right. Here are some handy phrases for flirting in Mandarin.
The big one first. "Wo ai ni." Literally, "I love you." The "Wo ai" form seems to be useful for anything. "Wo ai Hong Kong." I love Hong Kong. "Wo ai cho dofu." I love aged tofu. It's an acquired taste.
To "chi ni dofu." Literally Eat your tofu means to make out with. This seems to mean anything from innocent dofu eating like holding your child's hand to heavy petting. Be careful. It's a powerful and potentially embarrassing phrase.
"Xie Xie" means thanks. "Bu kau ye" Is you are welcome.
"Ni ya hen piao liong." Means "you are very beautiful.
Of course the real secret is to learn the language of your baby so you can flirt properly. I'm getting better. "Ni du pigu shi hen piao liong." refers to beauty and dofu at the same time. I'll let you work it out. Google translator anyone?