(no big drama - I'm just talking about learning Chinese)
Yesterday was our last Chinese class before the Christmas break and it's safe to say that I wasn't in a studying mood. As a matter of fact, I childishly begged my class mates to distract our teacher as much as possible with conversations in English and questions about next semester. But alas. It's kind of hard to keep the smalltalk going for 3 hours. Especially not with our Laoshi Xin. So there was no way out of finishing chapter 27.
All of chapter 27 is based on the grammatical structure ba (把). I wouldn't really know how to explain this structure in English but if we imagine for a moment that we use ba in English, a sentence would sound like this:
I ba bicycle put downstairs bicycle shed inside (Wǒ bǎ zìxíngchē fàng zài lóu xià de chēpéng lǐ le -我把自行车放在楼下的车棚里了) - Or please ba cup put table upon (Qǐng nǐ bǎ bēizi fàng zài zhuōzi shàng 请你把杯子放在桌子上). In other words, it clarifies what happened to the object.
The ba structure has been following (or should I say haunting?) us for over a year now. It is a commonly and frequently used structure and I do not doubt its usefulness - just like I don't doubt the frustration it is causing me. But last week I felt that I had finally cracked the code. Even the more complicated ba structures were starting to make sense to me. Like when you use it for "I mistook something for something else" or "I'm changing that into that" and so on. Towards the end of yesterday's lesson, while I still had an ounce of confidence left in my ability to read and comprehend sentences, it was time to read the transcript of chapter 27's listening exercises. On page 181, I lost my confidence again.
The first 3-4 sentences were rather easy. An old man goes to visit his son in Paris and bla bla bla. Then it was my turn to read - just when it all went grammatically pear shaped. The old man (who went to see his son in Paris) wrote down the street name where his son lived on a piece of paper so he could find his way home. Then gave the piece of paper to a taxi driver but when the taxi driver read it, it said "no way through". Get it? The street signs were in French and he mistook the name of the street for "No way through". But nono. Of course it was not the mistook I had already mastered (kan chéng). I must have read the sentence 7-8 times. Huílái shí, tā bǎ zhè zhāng zhǐ jiāo gěi sījī, sījī kàn dào shàngbian xiězhe cǐ lù bùtōng. I read it in a robotic way. As only someone who doesn't have a clue what she's reading would read. All I could think was "teacher, please put me out of my misery". Or someone ring the non-existing bell so we can be dismissed. A classic example of a Chinese learning curve; flying high one day and falling low the next.