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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

Tuesday, September 25 was the Chinese Mid-Autumn Day. I was invited to a potluck at my friend's house, and James, Kevin, and I all cooked. I made some garlic mashed potatoes, James made a spicy curry, and Kevin made some pasta salad. It was a good night, a good way to celebrate this strange lunar holiday, even if I did so with more foreigners than Chinese.

My classes have been going very well. My freshmen are all very wide-eyed and eager to learn. I think their reluctance to speak in class doesn't accurately reflect their true level, because when pushed, they speak quite well. But in just these past few days, things have already changed, from me prodding them out of silence to having to raise my voice to get them to quiet down. It must be a shock to their little systems to have a class where they're encouraged to talk, discuss, and actually speak the language they have been learning all these years.

My students, I was surprised to learn, knew surprisingly few English words that English speakers use all the time to talk about China. They knew words like moon cake (the traditional food of the Mid-Autumn Festival, ranges from tasty to awful, like fruitcake at Christmas) and phrases like "Mid-Autumn Day Festival," but they didn't know that their native language, Pǔtōnghuà, is called Mandarin in English. One of the first things I learned in Chinese, even wanted to learn, was how to refer to my country and my language. And it seems for every word I say, there is a muttered wave echoing its Chinese equivalent throughout the classroom. Which isn't bad, I do that with Chinese all the time, it's just ... strange, and new.

But I have been able to toss out some awesome English names. Cousins, like Brianna, Grace, Nicole, friends like Phelan and Cecilia, but also ones that are a little more weirdly me: Revan, Harmony, Prism, Sapphire, and Hymn.

Oh, and of course: Zelda.

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