7/25/2005

Mei Wah

"Like Calvin Trillin (most famously) and many others, I have never quite been able to sit down to a meal in a Chinese restaurant without wondering. Wondering if the Chinese characters on the menu said the same thing as the alleged English translations. Wondering what goodies I was missing from the Chinese-only specials board on the wall.

Wondering if there could be a more efficient way to make sure I got exactly what I thought I was getting, to know a little more about what I was ordering, to enable myself to make better food decisions.

So I started to learn some Chinese. I never did learn much. I still can't read a newspaper in Chinese, nor a non-food-related sign, nor hold a conversation in it. But I can read a menu in Chinese. And here I'm going to attempt to show you how to do it too.
This offer comes with some strict limitations.

I'm not going to teach you how to speak any Chinese, not even a little. These pages will be very little concerned with the sounds of Chinese or even with writing Chinese in Western letters. Mostly this is about Chinese characters. (This is exactly the opposite of the approach most Chinese textbooks take. But this is not a textbook.)"

This is pretty interesting. A crash course in how to read Chinese. Sort of.

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