Saturday, January 17, 2009


This is what comes of having too many languages in my brain at once...

  • Chinese characters and curling dragons caught my eye as I read the "Jin Yu" Chinese Restaurant sign. I was proud of myself for remembering that "Jin Yu" means "golden fish." I continued reading the sign aloud, sounding out what I thought was more Chinese, although it didn't immediately sound familiar - "Toh Tah-keh Oh-uht..." Then I suddenly realized what it said: "To Take Out".

  • My brother and I had gone to the public library for the first time since we'd been back in the US, and were in awe of the rows and rows of free books available, all in ENGLISH! As we scanned the shelves with our new library cards in our pockets, we came across a poster of a smiling child with a pile of books. My brother was surprised to see that the large lettering across the top was in Spanish: "Celebramos los libros". But he was a bit puzzled by the caption on the bottom of the poster as he continued reading, "Ceh-leh-brah-teh Books," wondering what it meant and why there was an English word thrown in the phrase... And then we realized that the bottom phrase was completely in English: "Celebrate Books."

  • For months since I've been back in Virginia Beach, every time I pass "The Founders' Inn," a hotel near our neighborhood, I look at the sign for their new spa and try to decipher the Chinese-looking script on it. It consists of 2 fairly simple-looking characters, and I feel as if I should know what they mean. I've even had a few friends ask me what the characters mean (people here seem to think I know a lot more Chinese characters than I actually do). But then recently someone finally explained the mysterious symbols. They do have something to do with the name of the spa, "Flowering Almond," but not in the way that I thought. The first highly stylized "character" is "F" and the second one is "A."

(...In my defense, I think the sign outside the hotel looks more Chinese and less like English letters than this image I found on the internet...)