So I'm sitting at home, browsing the net for info as I always do and what pops on the telly but a commercial for Rosetta Stone language learning software. Towards the end of it, a spunky white woman declares in both Mandarin then English, "Now I speak Mandarin!"
I always get tickled by this sort of out-of-the-box iconoclasty towards cultural norms. I wish a lot more people were as adventurous. Considering the rise of the Chinese economy over the past decade, it's a little surprising to me that Chinese isn't more common than it is among the non-Chinese community. Then again, there continues to be insulation between European and Asian cultures after centuries of persistent isolation from each other - culturally, politically, economically and linguistically.
Now what exactly is she saying in Chinese? To convey "Now I speak Mandarin!" in Mandarin, one might expect a word-for-word translation such as 现在我说汉语！ Xiànzài wǒ shuō Hànyǔ. Mandarin by and large has the same word order as English making the grammar relatively simple even if the pronunciation and tones present a dilemma for speakers of languages without word-tone distinctions. As I strain to listen to her rapid execution of the Chinese sentence, my ears detect the addition of huì /xwe(ɪ̯)/ (会) 'can, be able' but she misapplies the term guóyǔ (国语) 'national language, official language' as an equivalent to 'Mandarin'. This is best translated as Hanyu instead (literally 'language of the Han', the Han originally being a culture from northern China) since if one resides in the States, one's guoyu should be Yīngyǔ (英语) 'English', not Mandarin.
The thing that throws me off the most in her sentence is what's happening at the end of it. My brain expects to hear guoyu but it instead sounds like *guoyuan. This can't be right. I can only surmise that she's added a sentence-final particle a to denote a statement of fact.
The transcription I'd expect then is: 现在我会说国语啊！ Xiànzài wǒ huì shuō guóyǔ a! "Now I can speak the national language!" Perhaps I'm missing something so I'd love to hear feedback. The phrase may not be the best but then again she's one of the very few Mandarin-speaking blondes represented on TV to date so we should cut her some slack.