This year we are celebrating the year of the goat. While it might be easy for anyone, who is familiar with the system of the zodiac signs used in the Chinese calendar, to know, which animal is next, it is not for me. I am familiar with which animals are used as zodiacs because I watched the Japanese Anime Fruits Basket years ago, but I somehow just cannot remember which animal comes after the other. So, around the time of the celebrations in February I normally ask Chinese mom and dad like ten times until I can finally remember.
This year, the year of the goat, is one year were the Zodiac sign is relatively difficult to pronounce in German, or at least if you are a Chinese speaker who is not too skilled in correct German pronunciation. “Ziege” (ˈtsiːɡə), slovenly spoken by someone who does not care about the correct pronunciation, it can easily end up like a creative version of the German pronounced “Tiger” (tiːgər), all the more if one says “tiːgə”.
When I asked Chinese mom about which Zodiac sign was next, she answered with her own creative way, “tiːgə”. I looked at her, she once again only said “tiːgə, tiːgə!”, and I finally decided to ask her if “Tiger” was just a few years ago, and why it should be “Tiger” again. She answered that it was “tiːgə”(her version of goat), not “tiːgər” (German for tiger). I looked at her, and asked her to write the Chinese character (羊) down for me. She did and I instantly realized her mistake. I told her that she said it wrongly and practiced the correct way of saying with her. It was easy as the same sound also exists in Chinese. Like the “Tsi” in Tsingtao beer. As she normally forgets what I teach her right away, I did not put too much effort into it. I prompted, and she repeated it a few times, and as it was easy for her to pronounce, I let it go soon.
I already forgot the whole story when we all sat together for dinner again about two weeks later, Mr. Panda, Chinese mom and Chinese dad. She told me about the date of Chinese New Year celebrations, when I suddenly once again asked her again which Zodiac sign was next. (Remember from before, I normally ask this question around ten times every February.) Before she could answer, Chinese dad thrusted into the spotlight and prepared to take over the mission to teach me.
He could only say pronounce it wrongly one time, “tiːgə” the same as Chinese mom just two weeks before. She jumped out of the kitchen, next to him, and loudly began to tell him something. As they were speaking Cantonese I could not understand them at first, but suddenly she was like “It is ‘tsi’, not ‘ti’! Ziege (ˈtsiːɡə)!”. I cracked up.
She, who also said it wrong two weeks ago, was now really fiercely criticizing Chinese dad for his poor pronunciation! And corrected him. I cried tears because I had to laugh so hard. Of course he did not understand why I was laughing so hard and was utterly confused. But all the more, I was happy that she finally remembered something of the many things I taught her. Even if it was just the correct pronunciation of a word she’ll probably only used after twelve years again when it is finally the year of the goat again.
Do you like Chinese zodiacs? Which Chinese zodiac are you? Do you think you have more luck in your ‘year’?