Jun. 13th, 2011

kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

Apologies for making another meta post so soon after my "first anniversary" post, but I just wanted to briefly discuss the reasons behind (a) learning to read Chinese menus, and (b) blogging about it.

I've had a few people express admiration at my teaching myself to do this, and I wanted to make it clear that I'm not doing it to show off, and I'm not blogging about it to show off.

When I started teaching myself to read Chinese menus, which was a few months before I started the blog, I had no idea if it was even a plausible thing to do. All I knew was that there was delicious food, served in restaurants within walking distance of my house, that I had very little chance of being able to eat otherwise.

In November 2008, I took this photo. I'm not sure I can even remember why I took it; I don't think I had plans to learn to read Chinese at that point. Judging by comments on that photo, in May 2009 I could identify a couple of characters, and by February 2010 I could tentatively translate most of it. As of now I would happily and confidently order from it (though sadly I can't, since the restaurant has closed), and in fact last Thursday I successfully ordered from a Chinese-only menu that I'd never seen before (usually I like to get the menu and study it in advance).

I may be rambling a bit here, but I think the point I want to make is that this is possible. I am monolingual and have no particular talent for languages as far as I can tell. I realise that I'm lucky in that I can afford to eat out at restaurants, I have time and space to study at home, I have pretty good internet access, and I have plenty of Chinese restaurants and supermarkets within easy reach. I'm not saying that if I did it anyone can do it. I'm just saying that if you're reading this and wondering if you can teach yourself to read Chinese menus, one of the main reasons I started this blog was to encourage people like you to give it a go.

(For the avoidance of doubt, this post wasn't written in response to criticism — everyone who's spoken to me about the project, or linked to it from their own journal/blog/website, has been very positive about it!)

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.


December 2012


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