Before we moved to China, Nick and I knew two words in Chinese, "Ni hao" which means "hello", and "shi shi" which means "thank you" or so we thought. Depending on how you say "shi shi", it actually means "crumbs", so here we are, the brilliant Americans, roaming all around Shanghai telling people "crumbs" for holding the door or bringing us our meal at a restaurant. No wonder the waiter was looking at the table closely, he may have thought the table was dirty.
I bought a great Chinese phrase book before I left the States, only I forgot that I had it until my darling nephew reminded me of it two weeks ago via Oovoo. Because I've been frustrated by the lack of being able to communicate with non-English speakers, I started studying.
I learned about five or six key phrases - like "Hello", "Good morning", "How much?" "expensive", "don't want", "don't understand", etc. The problem is that I tried some of these phrases out on Monday and I was responded to in Chinese, which didn't help me much at all.
We started language lessons last night, and it is going to be tough. I studied Japanese in college and Chinese makes that seem easy, at least, so far. Our tutor spent two hours drilling us just with pronunciations of Chinese sounds, some of them are pretty tough. Worse than trying to roll an "R" in French.
I'm also worried about losing my three weeks of progress when I return to the states for six weeks. So, don't be surprised if I say that I'm doing "Mama huhu" (OK) or "Ni hui jiang ying yu man?" (Do you speak English?).