Lessons in KTV

On Monday, CIEE took us on a “field trip” to the nearby Holiday KTV where we proceeded to karaoke for five hours. Well, some of us lasted the whole five hours (me and another student, as well as a few Taiwanese ambassadors) while others conceded earlier in the night to excuses of dictation quizzes, the need to sleep, etc.

We sang new songs, like 無言以對 (Nothing Left to Say) by 蔡依林 (Jolin Tsai), as well as perennial favorites: 大城小愛 (Big City, Small Love) and 唯一 (One and Only) by 王力宏 (Wang Leehom), 童話 (Fairy Tale) by 光良 (Michael Wong), 老鼠爱大米(I love you like a mouse loves rice), 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart) by Teresa Teng, and the extremely sappy duet, 梁山伯與朱麗葉 (Romeo and Juliet) by 卓文萱 and 曹格. And tons of Jay Chou. And of course one of those awful songs that won’t go away, styled by someone named (I kid not) “MC Hotdog.”

We threw in a few songs in English for good measure, though the vast majority of the night was sung in Mandarin. Two Taiwanese friends and I sang “好膽你就來 (Come If You Dare)” in Taiyu (Taiwanese dialect), though A*Mei’s vocal range turned out to be our downfall. Besides, trying to read the Taiwanese sounds translated or represented by Chinese characters was beyond difficult given my sketchy knowledge of Taiwanese and my literacy-in-progress status with Chinese. I was more than happy to go back to singing in familiar 國語 (Chinese)!

In those five hours, I realized that despite moments of frustration in and out of the classroom, my Chinese really has improved in the time I’ve been in Taipei. I can look up and add to the music queue without asking a friend to help me – and this is a bigger deal than it sounds since you know how to write and be able to count the strokes of the first character of the target song title. I can read (more) at the speed of the glowing blue words across the screen.  Thinking in terms of word meanings comes much more naturally than simply memorizing sounds, which was how I processed Chinese music in my earlier years.  It’s truly amazing how much more fun karaoke is when you are literate. My hoarseness the next morning proved my enthusiasm…

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