I’ve been in China for two weeks now! I figure it’s as good a time as ever to start learning the language. In fact, learning Chinese is my number one priority for this year and it’s already been going swell! My little city is a perfect place to hear the common dialect spoken through most of China, making it the perfect place to study. Sorry, did I say little city? I meant my city of 13 million. (For a little perspective, that’s 5 million more than NYC, America’s largest city. ‘Just sayin…) But Tianjin is only the 4th or 6th largest city in the country, with Beijing and Shanghai taking the cake as the big dogs. To paint the picture, there are literally people everywhere at all times of the day. A simple street-crossing turns into an unbeatable Frogger level. A simple bus ride becomes an awkward adventure to get the last remaining seat. A simple trip to the supermarket turns into a war zone with your grocery carts as the weapons.

Personally, I love it. There’s always someone to practice language with! The first few days here have been full of meeting people and stumbling through what I’ve remembered of spoken Chinese. But I’ve met many people who speak English as well. They’re always willing to help me out and welcome me to their grand city.

It's Pronounces, "Tea and Gin"

One bit of humorous information that an English-speaking friend offered was, “I love it here in Tianjin… because it’s pronounced, ‘tea and gin,’ two of my favorite things!” I thought that was quite clever, actually, and have been using it ever since. There’s hope; this language thing can’t be too bad after all.

In this image, we see the two characters that make up Tianjin. They’re very distinctive and should be easy to spot when you’re gallivanting around the city. Specifically, the characters are “tian” and “jin”. “Tian” is one I remembered from my studies because it’s used in many of the words I’ve learned so far, like days, times of day, weather, etc. By itself, it means “heaven” or “the concept of heaven” described by Confucius. And I’ve since learned that “jin” stands for all sorts of things as well. As a verb, it could mean “to cross over water” or “to ferry”, and as a noun, it’s a common family name. Together, the two characters make up Tianjin, my beautiful city’s name. It’s literally translated, “The Heavenly Ford,” and rightfully so, because it’s where hundreds of years ago the Emperor (who’s considered very heavenly) forded the Hai He River.

Make sense? Two characters down – over 80,000 left to go!