Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Learn Chinese: easy as 1, 2, 3 (and 4 magazines)

(Photo Credit -- Noel Duan)
China is a country founded on the past and tilted towards the future. Amidst the art deco skyscrapers are sensational ancient palaces and temples in bright colors rivaling those of Missoni prints. All women wear high heels no matter much they have to walk (image is very important over there). Children go to school from 6:00am to 9:00pm in hopes of gaining entrance to the top universities -- for some, it's their only escape to a better future.

My father came from a poor farm village in China, and the question, "Why do all of the children from that village seem so successful nowadays?" was brought up.

My father's friend, also from the same village and now living in Beijing, answered, "Because we were poor and those who have nothing, learn to fight for something." Point noted.
At a local bookstore in Chengdu, Sichuan, I picked up four Chinese fashion magazines: Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Vogue, and Madame Figaro -- all Chinese editions of foreign publications.
It was delightful to see that Madame Figaro enclosed a pattern (with explicit permission) for making a frock à la Parisian designer Gaspard Yurkievich -- complete with instructions in Chinese too! I adore this DIY idea and I wish more American magazines had this feature.

The truth is, I didn't embrace my Chinese heritage as a child. I quit Chinese school in middle school, barely scooped up the skills to use chopsticks in high school, had little interest in the Chinese fashion industry (other than sweatshop research and advocacy), and shunned Chinese pop stars (I now embrace Jay Chou -- and his abs -- with all my heart).

So, as I took the taxi back to my room with these four magazines in my hands, I gave myself a summer goal. A real summer goal, by the way -- originally, my only summer goal was to beat all 34 levels of BrickBreaker on my Blackberry (I am only at level 16 right now).

With my giant Chinese-English dictionary by my side, I am going to improve my Chinese language skills by reading these four Chinese fashion magazines. I will not just look at the spreads and advertisements as I usually do -- I will read the articles. I will appreciate Chinese journalism. I will learn to read Chinese beyond menus and street signs and Jay Chou song titles.

ex.oh.ex.oh
Miss Couturable

P.S. Speaking of foreign languages, what language should I add to my repertoire in college? Currently I speak English, Mandarin-Chinese, and Spanish. Shall I add French? Italian? Swahili?!
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