April 25, 2001
Cube. The guy opposite my cube has the best accent. I love when he talks on the phone; I can’t understand a word. You may think I sound sarcastic; I’m serious. I look forward to the guy’s phone conversations. Since I can’t understand him it doesn’t enroach on my consciousness more than music, but I often just listen and find his paroles captivating. It’s Mandarin. Let me tell you what I think of Mandarin. It reminds me of noises I used to make as a kid. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about those swallowed "R" sounds that remind me of some constipated, unformed child-speak. When people speak Mandarin, it actually sounds to me like they have trouble pronouncing. On a more conscious level, I’m convinced that Mandarinophones deliberately created a language by choosing only those sounds that people can't make. The Mandarin word for "two" is "ar." It sounds a lot like "are" in English except there’s that fascinating swallowed quality in it, like you’re eating your tongue. It’s that "R" that really gets me. When the guy opposite me speaks English, he uses it. I can hardly believe that he can have a normal conversation with an anglophone, but it must be someone who is already accustomed to his accent.