By Gregory Taylor
Pianist Leon Bates talks to students at Westlake school in Oakland.
Music has always been a passion of mine, both as a practitioner and spectator. So, when the opportunity presented itself to attend the Four Seasons Arts, 52nd season opener, last Saturday at Holy Names University, featuring pianist Leon Bates – I ran to get tickets.
You see, I like to think that I’m fairly familiar with the mechanics and nuances of the Piano, and although Jazz and Brazilian sambas are more my style of play, I have recently come to appreciate the classical pieces of Beethoven, Chopin, and Bach.
I just love the ambiance of a concert hall and the behavior it demands. It elicits a certain dislocation of time to a snootier era of knee-high stockings, bustiers, and white wigs. I arrived a tad late and politely entered the auditorium during an applause break so as not to make myself anymore conspicuous than I already had.
I excused myself once, twice, and excused myself again as I passed one seated patron after another until, thank God, I arrived at my assigned seat and quietly shape-shifted my corpus into it.
Mr. Bates was already performing center stage seated pro forma at the keys of a long-black gorgeous Steinway. I cleared my head and allowed the harmonious chord sequences to enter my brain like one would do when studying something elegantly technical. I’m not an easy sell when it comes to a piano performance. Read more
Sister Nebeker teaches English to Chinese immigrants in Oakland Chinatown. Photo by Gregory Taylor.
“Ni hao ma! Nuestra familia llegará a México en agosto despueés de 2 años de vivir en Malasia.”
After an initial greeting in Chinese, the above letter was written in Spanish by a mother whose family is moving to Mexico in August after living in Malaysia for two years. She goes on to say that wants her five-year-old son to continue studying Mandarin in Mexico. She would like the institution to provide her with necessary information regarding location, classes, price, etc. Read more
The above title illustrates three ways to write “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” The first version is character-based while the second version is a Roman/Latin alphabet writing system developed to aid the foreign speaker in its pronunciation of Chinese characters called “pinyin”. Read more
Eddie Williams (left) does his part to close the cultural gap at Aegis Garden Retirement Community in Fremont. Photo by Greg Taylor.
You ever wonder how to make heads or tails out of the Chinese writing system. Do they read from top to bottom, right to left? Are their surnames, like ours, placed after their given name? Why do they seem to sing with varying pitches when they speak?
Do you remember the Richard Pryor joke about how the Chinese name their kids by throwing silverware in the air and whatever the clanking sounds of knives, spoons, and forks determine the pronunciation?
Chinese is a tone (sound) based language and whether the tone is high, low, descending then rising, or just rising determines the meaning. As an example, if I say “Ma” using the four tones of Mandarin the meaning could range anywhere from mom, to scold, to horse, or hemp. Read more
Young Chinese students enjoying Salvation Army Summer Camp in downtown Oakland.
By Greg Taylor
What does Mexico know that America doesn’t? A growing number of Mexican students are now studying Chinese as a foreign language. To the exclusion of most other languages, Americans study Spanish because of proximity and likely interactions between Spanish and English speakers.
However, will Spanish be the principal language to help you participate in the global economy? How many factories from Mexico are being built here? How many joint ventures are being launched with America–in America? No, the language of business will not be Spanish, but it very well might be Chinese.
China has become an economic powerhouse financing our national debt resulting in a lop-sided balance of trade. Your next job, if you’re lucky, might be with an American and Chinese joint-venture company doing business in America.
Bilingualism could put an employee on the promotional fast track. The monolingual employee – persons speaking only one language – is going the way of the dinosaur. Read more