Araminta Spookie in Cantonese [via Taiwan]

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My wife says translations into Chinese are always a bit weird, but I liked the cover of this one and the first person voice, so I took it out.

In Hong Kong, you can renew a book 5 times at the library before they send Joaquin Phoenix after you. I think I renewed this one 4 times. Actually, I didn’t finish the first one, I got side-tracked by another book, maybe 3 Body Problem or Virgin of the 7 Daggers, but the second one hooked me a bit more and, despite a few troughs, I got through it.

Then I got through book 3, the one where their neighbour steals their frogs without getting punished for it at the end, and now I’m on book 4.

Each book starts at a gentle pace, with Araminta wandering around the mansion, either looking for a relative, looking for a ghost, looking for a secret door, looking for Uncle Drac’s old Shannon Tweed vids.

The voice is quite natural, and I can pick up a lot of good phrases, though half of them aren’t used in spoken Cantonese. Some of them are Taiwanese, too, as that’s the place it’s aimed at/translated for.

There’s about 17 different ways to say ‘usually’ and ‘even if’, I’m not sure why. Some of the ‘even if’ words double as ‘although’ or ‘even’, a lot of it is situational in Cantonese, and of course a lot of them you wouldn’t say in conversation. The trick is knowing which is which, and the supplementary trick is being able to not mix them up.

Reminds me of the subtitles in Peppa Pig…in most cases, the written subtitle does not match the spoken words, or even the word order of the sentence, which apparently isn’t a problem in Mandarin. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ve never studied Mandarin.

I think my reading may have surpassed my listening, which is pretty embarrassing. Or maybe not. Doesn’t everyone find listening the hardest part of learning a language? It’s the only aspect that relies on both speed and not being in control.

Descriptions are probably the hardest part of learning Cantonese, as well as…numerous other things. You know Cantonese is in the top group of the hardest languages to learn [for westerners, not Asian people], but don’t let this put you off. There are some parts that are quite easy, e.g. lack of tenses, inter-connectedness of words, and the tones aren’t that tough as soon as you stop trying to learn them and just parrot what people are saying to you. That’s how Hong Kong kids learn it, so it’s my method too.

I’ve also taken out 7 other books and am pretty confident of finishing perhaps 2 of them. I’ve already given up on the 300 page Geronimo Stilton lord of the rings rip off as Stilton stories are a bit A to B and sometimes even worse; I still can’t believe I made it through the one where Stilton loses weight.

The Dark Forest is getting closer and closer to disappearing out of sight on my book shelf. I half expected it. I struggled with 3 Body Problem a lot, but the end was strong, the aliens were intelligently ruthless, so I picked up Dark Forest, read the blurb, read the first few pages but then, almost straight away, it had a ‘Roadside Picnic’ effect on me. I like the idea, I like anything with space or aliens, but I just can’t seem to get through these things anymore. Is Sherlock Holmes really the only thing I can read from this point on? I hope not. I got through Virgin of the 7 Daggers and 3 Body Problem, I can do it again. Just gotta put my back into it, force the words into my brain until I get to an engrossing bit of the plot.

Then, when Dark Forest’s done, I’ve got the third one, Babel 17 [again], Saturday starts on Monday, Hard to be a God, Sarah Canary, Dancers at the End of Time, Nine Fox Gambit, others I can’t remember right now…

Are any of them gonna be worth it?

Classics aren’t always your classics, look at Samuel Beckett, Murakami, Percy Jackson.

And some sci fi is Gene Wolfe


Maybe they’re gonna be decent

Babel 17 at least

Cos it’s about language.

Honestly, I probably prefer reading in Chinese at the moment…it’s tough, bit of a chore sometimes, but the writing is beautiful and there’s a sense of achievement when you finish a 175 page book, even if it was written for 9 year olds. Also, for the first time in my life I’m thinking of reading a China Mieville book, but in Chinese. It’s a bit beyond my level now, but another half year and I should be ready.

Until then it’s Angie Sage books and Fantastic Mr Fox and Lemony Snicket, maybe try the one with the purple bat again.

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