Indian soldiers pick up Mandarin in Nathu La pass

Discussion in 'China' started by huaxia rox, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. huaxia rox

    huaxia rox Senior Member Senior Member

    Apr 4, 2011
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    Indian soldiers pick up Mandarin in Nathu La pass - Times Of India

    OLKATA: "Nihao ma?" the burly Sikh soldier asks with a distinct Punjabi accent. His colleague from Madhubani in Bihar answers: "Wo hinhao. Ni ne?"

    The soldier's Maithili accent is quite evident, much to the amusement of the others watching the skit. The officers judging the show aren't laughing though. For them, it is serious business. The words exchanged are a simple "How are you?" and "I am fine. And you?" in basic Mandarin.

    Believe it or not, Indian soldiers posted at the 14,130 feet high Nathu La Pass in East Sikkim are not only picking up Mandarin phrases but also putting them to use in skits. These skits are judged by officers, many of who are experts in the language and the winning team is rewarded.

    "The soldiers are actually encouraged to pick up the language. The basic phrases not only help during interactions with Chinese soldiers and traders but also help to understand what is being said on the other side. It is a difficult proposition for a soldier from the Punjab or one from Tamil Nadu to pick up Mandarin but most have taken it up as a pastime as there is not much else to do in this remote part of the country.

    The competitions are organized to encourage them. Nowadays, some soldiers are even heard conversing between themselves in Mandarin, just for the fun of it," an officer said. For someone better trained in the language, the impromptu skits sound and look far worse than poorly-dubbed run of the mill Kung-fu flicks, an officer says but they serve a greater purpose. For one, it helps to lighten the mood during interactions like the special border personnel meet held on Independence Day. More importantly, it helps the soldiers interpret basic messages that they pick up from across the border during routine patrols.

    "Though we don't expect the soldiers - with their basic knowledge of the language - to interpret all messages, most of which are encrypted, sometimes even simple information can come in handy. There is also a lot of information that can be gleaned from traders, many of who can't speak Indian languages. The knowledge of basic Mandarin is crucial as the terrain is hostile and there is always the possibility of natural calamities when patrols are sometimes cut off from base," another officer said.

    Trade between India and China resumed six years ago. Under an agreement between the two countries, 29 items are exported from India and 15 imported. While Indian traders go as far as Renquinggang in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chinese traders come up to Sherathang. This year, nearly 300 applications have been received from traders for passes, sources said.
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    It is always good to learn new languages.

    Allows one to understand each other better.

    However, Mandarin is not that easy for non Chinese people, since unlike other languages, it has four tonal notes and one toneless note.

    The reason for having these tones is probably that the Chinese language has very few possible syllables -- approximately 400 -- while English has about 12,000. For this reason, there may be more homophonic words , words with the same sound expressing different meanings, in Chinese than in most other languages.

    Apparently tones help the relatively small number of syllables to multiply and thereby alleviate but not completely solve the problem. Learning Chinese in context, therefore, is very important.

    Can you imagine that the Chinese use only three syllables when expressing the same meaning as each of the following sentences conveys?

    Click on each of the sentences to see the corresponding Pinyin with their tones marked. Then click on the speaker icon to listen.)

    A mother who is riding on a horse thinks that it is slow and so she curses it.
    A little girl who is herding a cow finds it stubborn and so she pinches it.

    Now you can understand how the Chinese use only one syllable "da" and yet can tell the difference betwee "to hang over something" ( da1 ), "to answer" (da2), "to hit" (da3), and "big" (da4). Yes, the secret lies in the tones.

    For more see:
    Chinese Tones
    W.G.Ewald and Kunal Biswas like this.

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