Chinese language pack

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Amr b. Al-’As said, “When Islam entered my heart, I went to the Messenger of God and said, ‘Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.’  The Prophet (peace be upon him) spread his hand, but I withdrew mine.  He (peace be upon him) said ‘What is wrong ‘Amr?’  I said, ‘I want to make a condition.’  ‘And what is that? he (peace be upon him) said.  I said, ‘That God will forgive me.’  Then the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said, ‘Did you not know that Islam wipes out what came before it…?’” (Sahih Muslim)

You write in the book that “the typical Chinese person [seems] keenly invested in his [or her] own language.” Are you suggesting that Chinese people have a deeper appreciation or love for their language in comparison to, say, English speakers?

So, functionally, it was a real challenge. But linguistically, it grew more and more fascinating. I kept running into things where I’d think: Languages are not supposed to do this! Why are there so many homonyms, when the point of language is to clarify, not obstruct. Why tones? Why so many compound words? I could go on.

How can you suddenly leave off the pleases when you have lived a life where please and thank you are drummed into you from the get go? Or how can you not be taken aback when asked about your earnings, your rent, your age, or asked which of your children you like best?

Mandarin was completely different, in all the linguistic ways mentioned above, from any other language I spent any time on.  The good news: very little grammar. The bad news: tones, a sound system with lots of new and barely distinguishable sounds. It took me about 18 months of regular study before I got traction and felt I wasn’t re-learning the same thing every week.

Earlier this month, when Peng Xiancheng, chairman of privately owned Decision Chemical from Sichuan province, visited the headquarters of Germany’s BASF, his raw material supplier and the global chemical industry giant, he took photos of everything possible, even its gate, before wrapping up his half-day tour.

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