Thursday, December 07, 2006

What people say in China, Korea and Japan

Everywhere I travelled in China, I herd people say things. Mostly behind me, but sometimes to me. Unfortunately my Chinese is not good enough to fully understand what they were saying. Some things I looked up in the dictionary, but still I think there must be some colloquial meanings. Some of the things I said seemed to have other meanings or emphasis. So here is my understanding (or lack there of) of what was said. I'd appreciate any comments. My romanization may be poor.

Bu Yang or Bu Yong, I was never sure, but they seem to be two different things. Only once did a girl say bu yang to me. Usually they said it after I walked past. I do not think I ever heard a man say it. Bu Yang seems to mean no need. But that does not make sense.

Bu Yao is what I used to say for do not want. But it seems to have a different meaning as after about a week, some people would say, Oh I see... yao-bu-yao de yao. So there must be a different harsher yao. I learned this at school and from the phrase book. So I a left wondering.

Bu dao le - well this seems harsh, but I do not know. People said it some times. Some times they said bu dwei.

There seemed to be some confusion between Au-da-li-a (Australia). People generally knew what I meant, but sometimes I think people who overheard me thought I was saying da-li-a. I have been unable to determine what this may mean and I heard it lot in northern china. Richard though that maybe I was really hearing da-lia-a which is why so late? Anyway, after a while the confusion seemed to be clarified (I do not know how) and life was OK again. I was at one stage considering abandoning saying au-da-li-a in favour of the shorter au-zhou. The latter is the Austrlian continent. They are obviously relatively interchangeable.

So you see, language can be a difficult thing. I never had the troubles in Korea I had in China. I think the Chinese keep on assuming that I know more Chinese than I do. I know the Koreans did. For a while I was never certain if they (the koreans) were speaking to me in Chinese or Korean. This is partly because Sino-korean is so much like Chinese. I had this in Japan the first time I was there. I tend to read the Chinese characters straight into English, but sometimes I will read it into mandarin. In Japan, people also occasionally said things, randomly on the street to me in mandarin Chinese. Usually it surprised me so much that by the time I worked out that I needed to switch languages, got over my surprise and then translated what they had said, they had gone. But they were always nice things that were said.

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