Bakery, adverbs, and lies

I’m on the Mainland for the the next week, where fb and wordpress are banned… so if you make comments on fb or on the blog this week, I’ll see them but won’t be able to answer.

I have to say this about the Simply Life Bakery Cafe in the next building: the chicken pies, the beef pies, and the carrot cake samples are world-class spectacular.

I met Alto today for lunch; you might know "Alto" as "John Pasden" from ChinesePod and All-Set Learning. A few years ago he was my supervisor, which is a thankless job. Today he was kind enough to treat me to lunch. We talked about learning , teaching, all the things I like talk about.

We were talking about how to explain grammar, and as an example he gave me 却, which is an adverb or particle that likes to be before a verb. It means "however." *However, it cannot start a sentence. People want to start phrases with it, *however, 却 does not work that way, it’s not a conjunction. You can, however, put it right before the verb.

How do you write an explanation for this, without boring people to death? I’ve been chewing on this for hours now.

The truth is, I don’t know. The word "adverb" often triggers a histamine response. I know that in my classroom, I wouldn’t worry so much about the explanation as I’d worry about making highly personal sentences that involve wild accusation. I might point to someone in class and say:

抽烟对身体不好,大家都知道了。你抽烟抽的很多。Everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy. You, however, smoke a lot.

The subsequent practice exercise would be to create wild accusations of people in the class doing terrible things, contrary to what is considered socially normative, decent behavior.

Here’s the principle: if the grammar is boring and grammary, make an exercise that is highly learner-centered with high-stakes emotional content. 这就是我的观念。

That doesn’t help Alto in his situation at all… but come on, Alto doesn’t need my help!

Of course, subsequently you must teach the students to say "You, mister, are a fat liar!" which they are happy to learn.

I’m about to hop in a cab and meet a former classmate; I’ll tell you all about that later. One thing before I go, though: I feel like I’m experiencing some backsliding in terms of my Chinese. Today my tones were all wrong, and I could hear it, but I couldn’t control them.

I also got meiyou‘ed at the pharmacy. I tried to explain that I needed Benadryl, a pink pill that you eat for allergies; the pharmacist brought out some Claratin and something else. I said, no… and then when I looked it up on my phone and showed her 苯海拉明,she was like, nope. We don’t have that. I tried to sell you Claratin, but you didn’t want that. So no.

So then I dialed up antihistamine 抗组胺剂 she was like, nope. Meiyou.

Is it possible that there’s no Benadryl or Benadryl equivalent in China? Or that a pharmacy in the expat-infested Jinqiao wouldn’t stock it? Maybe! Maybe it’s possible. But it smells like a lie, like I was being taught a lesson. Claratin or nothing, fool.

/span> dú shū: to study; to read; to attend school

牌子 páizi: billboard; sign; brand; trademark; plate

法棍 fǎgùn: French baguette (bread)

管子 guǎnzi: tube; pipe; drinking straw

s què: but; yet; however

One thought on “Bakery, adverbs, and lies

  1. Wow, I got a blog entry! Thanks for coming out, and putting so much thought into this issue. I’m starting to think that it’s not that big of a deal for learners that have reached the upper intermediate level. True, they may not be used to grammatical gymnastics anymore, but they once went through similar experiences to learn 把 and 被 and various complements, so they should be up to the task.


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