Gauss-Telegraph: A small reflection of the Chinese trial lesson on 01.12.2018
Language as a means for interpersonal communication
“Every new language is like an open window that shows a new view of the world and expands your attitude towards life.”
Frank Harris (1856-1931), American Author
你好 Nǐ hǎo dear Gauss Friends!
As Frank Harris quoted, language enables new approaches, not only to cultural, but also to the scientific world. Language is thus not merely the bearer of meaning and tradition, but also a key to the world and self-understanding. Written and spoken language is a medium of thought and of world views par excellence. The great importance of language for a comprehensive understanding of science and culture was also recognized by Carl-Friedrich Gauss, who was able to speak not only German but also languages such as Latin, French and even Russian.
As part of the language week from 27.11 until 03.12, the Gauss Friends provided insights to seven different languages – from Spanish to Arabic to Russian etc. At the Chinese trial course last Saturday about 12 students eagerly listened to their language and culture teacher of this evening’s Mr. Xi Ding.
At the beginning of the course, Xi Ding drew on the flip-chart artistically the very complex appearing logographic Chinese writing and that too at an admirable speed which marveled the participants immediately. The resulting typeface was artistic, almost like a painting.
Xi Ding continued to explain the special significance of tonality and the sound of language in China. So the first letters and words were sung together in the choir.
Once in tune with the musical intuition, the first questions followed, which were also practiced in chorus.
- How are you?
→ Nǐ hǎo ma? 你好吗?
- Did you eat already?
→ Nǐ chīfànle ma? 你吃饭了吗?
In addition to introducing the Chinese writing and language, Xi Ding also gave insights to the cultural, ways of thinking and ideas as well as their realization in everyday life. The focus was on Chinese dining and table etiquettes. Important, according to Xi Ding, is the round table, which symbolizes harmony by its circular shape. In addition, the round shape provides all the guests easy access to the different dishes. The dishes in the Chinese food culture are also of particular importance, both the arrangement at the table and the quality of the dishes. In the common opinion, beautiful porcelain contributes to the pleasure of eating. Indulgence, well-being and harmony seem to be an important part of Chinese philosophy.
In addition to the spoken language and the exciting cultural sights, it was particularly stimulating to observe nonverbal communication and body language. The specific gestures, facial expressions and laughter, as part of human expressions that could be understood without any language skills.
“Even the longest journey begins with the first step.”
In the spirit of the Chinese philosopher Confucius/Kong Qiu [* 551 BCE. † 479 BCE] at the end of the course, the students were proud to announce that they had taken the first step and were able to “sing” a few sentences in one of the most difficult languages in the world.
再见! Goodbye! Zàijiàn!