'Jingshen' is the mandarin word for spirit and vivacity (this is the best i can do writing. The key is to actually pronounce the word correctly which i can't do writing). Above all things, Jingshen is important in life for if we do not have Jingshen, we decline and die. We also need 'huo li' - vitality and energy - 'Jing li'. To have more 'Jingshen', 'Huo li' and 'Jing li', to add more spice to life, i decided to enrol in a Mandarin class. I did start on the classes some years back but had to terminate it as i had to go to UK for an assignment. The other day, i decided to re start the classes at a new centre near my place of work. The teacher, Miss Wang (I call her Miss Money Penny as she likes talking about money in class now and then and because in the Malay language, 'Wang' also means money), is a tall young lady from China, very fluent in English (her second language) and has a talent for making speaking mandarin simple. There are only 4 of us in a class- limited to 4 students only (this is strange..the chinese being supertitious and all, why did Miss Wang decide to have the unlucky number 4 in class? Hmm..must query her about this). I am the oldest student in the class. The other 3 students being an indian girl in her early twenties, and two young chinese boys (in their early twenties too) who have just started on their first year law course (looks like even in mandarin classes i meet people connected with the law- what a coincidence). Imagine chinese boys learning mandarin...I missed the first class but apparently did not miss much. In Mandarin, its all about phonetics - you have the initials, the finals and the toners of a word. The toners are the important part in speaking the language. Chinese is a tone language. Its all about the sounds- the different pitches (like learning music) - you have a different toner and you get a different word. Mandarin has four basic tones - the first tone, the second tone, the third tone and the fourth tone. The tones are used to distinguish the meaning of a syllable. Different tones have different meanings. For example the word 'ma' with different tones have the meanings of mother, hemp, horse and curse. The word 'ma' is also used in a question - 'Ni hao ma?' - 'How are you?' The interesting part of learning the language is that when one pronounces wrongly, the consequences can be hilarious. In such classes, one can be humbled so as to be polite and not laugh at our chinese brothers and sisters out there who can't pronounce English words that well, despite trying their very best. So i imagine very funny moments in the weeks ahead. Good for dealing with the stress of life and for the heart and health generally.
Miss Money Penny has a unique talent in connecting these different toners with English words that makes it funny. So you have this picture in your mind of the English word and it helps you remember the initals, the finals and the toners of the mandarin word. With only two classes a week, she has to be good and talented to ensure we speak the language in eight weeks time. Jingshen, Huo li and Jing li to all.