Anyone who has learned a foreign language knows the uncomfortable situation of knowing how to ask a basic question but not really having the language or cultural skills to understand the response. For me, no other question has been as troubling in this regard here as, “Where are you from?” Unless the answer was Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Hong Kong, or Wuhan, I never could follow the answer, and I ended up nodding blankly. That is until now.
Inspired to know basic Chinese geography such that I would have more to talk about in these kinds of situations, I decided to learn the provinces/autonomous regions and their capitals. That’s a total of 32 political areas and their corresponding capitals with correct pronunciation and characters…no small feat. But with a week off from work and some markers in the drawer, I decided to give it a go. Yesterday I finished my task.
Seeing my progress, Tian also was inspired to start working on the US states and capitals. She likes to point out that she has more of them to learn, which is definitely true, and she’s already about half way there. But I counter that she already knows a lot more English than I do Chinese, and there is no need to remember characters. Either way, we’ll be ending this process with a better knowledge of each other’s homelands. Hopefully it will all stick.