Friday, September 7, 2007

Movies can teach you

Learning to speak Chinese is no easy task. It requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. The process can be so frustrating at times you may be tempted to just drop it!.
There are literally thousands of resources available on the web to help you in your studies but one thing I have found to be of enormous help is watching Chinese movies. I cover the subtitles and listen to the audio in Mandarin just to force myself to find and recognize familiar words. It helps a great deal to get used to the sound of natural or connected Chinese speech. It will definitely help you improve your Chinese language pronunciation.

A great movie to practice is "House of the Flying Daggers". I must have watched this film at least 3 dozen times . In all honesty, one of the reasons I keep watching it over and over again is because I AM MADLY IN LOVE with both Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, but that's another story altogether.

House of the Flying Daggers ( 十面埋伏 • shi2 mian4 mai2fu2) is a movie of the 武俠 • wu3xia2 • chivalry genre. From what I have read, the four character idiom means "lying in an ambush in ten sides".

Shi2 is the word for the number ten; 面• mian4, refers to side, aspect, surface or area; and 埋伏
mai2fu2 is a the word for "ambush" (where 埋 • mai2 = bury and 伏 • fu2 = prostrate or hide).

During the reign of the Tang dynasty (唐朝 • tang2chao2) in China, a secret organization called "The House of the Flying Daggers" rises and opposes the government. A police officer called Leo (劉船長 • liu2chuan2zhang3) sends officer Jin (金船長 • Jin1chuan2zhang3) to investigate a young dancer named Mei (小妹 • xiao3mei4), claiming that she has ties to the "Flying Daggers". Leo arrests Mei, only to have Jin break her free in a plot to gain her trust and lead the police to the new leader of the secret organization.

When I first saw the movie I had no idea that 章子怡 (zhang1 zi3yi2) could sing at all. As it happens, she does and beautifully. The movie introduces a theme performed by her and borrowed from a famous poem written by 李延年• li3 yan2nian2, a poet from the Han Dynasty (漢朝 • han4chao2).

These are the lyrics with some personal annotations to help you understand where the meanings come from:

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You can listen to the song here
Remember you can practice your Chinese language pronunciation online with Pinyin Talker!

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