Chinese Resources

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An in depth look at "Live the language- Beijing"

The people over the Education First have a great video series entitled "Live the Language". I just found one of the videos about traveling to Beijing. 

For those of you that haven't been, If this video doesn't spark some curiosity in mainland China (specifically Beijing), I really don't know what is going to do it for you. Other than creating an interest in travel, this video can certainly be used as a language learning tool. I enjoy the fact that Chinese characters appear large on the screen, and with pīnyīn too. Even better than that however, is the visual imagery they use along with the characters. There is never really any confusion about the character they are introducing, and without even studying Chinese it is pretty easy to guess and correctly understand the meaning. 

In order to take the language learning experience on step further, I thought we should break down the 35 words featured in the video and provide a bit of background information, along with some sample sentences.

Here are the words, in the order they appear in the video.

北京 (Běijīng): The Capitol of China, with a population of over 20 million. A great place to live and studying Chinese for any expat.

抵达/抵達 (dǐdá): a verb, which means "to reach/ to arrive at". 自上海起行,至今日抵达北京。 Zì Shànghǎi qǐxíng, zhì jīn rì dǐ dá Běijīng. I departed from Shanghai, today I arrived in Beijing.

欢迎/歡迎 (hūan yíng): a verb, which means "welcome/ greet". The most common example of this verb is 欢迎您来到北京 (or another location). Hūanyíng nín lái dào Bēijīng. Welcome to Beijing.

您好 (nín hǎo): a formal greeting used for first encounters or for people that have a higher status than the speaker, also used as a way to show respect. This one doesn't really need an example sentence, since it is a set phrase that can be used by itself. 

寄住家庭 (jì zhù jiā tíng): This is actually a mistake in the video. They have the pīnyīn correctly listed as jì sù jiā tíng, which should actually be 寄宿家庭, which is a homestay family. It is a great way to quickly improve your Chinese (or any language for that matter) and integrate into the target culture. 你们的项目有没有寄宿家庭住宿?Nǐmen de xìangmù yǒu méi yǒu jì sù jiā tíng zhù sù? Does your program offer any homestay housing options?

礼物/禮物 (lǐ wù): a noun meaning gift or present, which has the measure word 件 (jiàn). 我今天要去做生日,你觉得我应该送什么礼物? Wǒ jīntiān yào qù zuò shēng rì, nǐ juéde wǒ yīnggāi sòng shénme lǐ wù? I'm going to celebrate a birthday today, what do you think I should give as a gift?

* Cultural note, if you are going to someones house for a dinner, or staying with a host family, you should come with a small gift. For more info on dinner etiquette or gift ideas, click here.

音乐/ 音樂 (yīn yùe): a noun meaning music. 我喜欢听音乐. wǒ xǐhuān tīng yīnyuè. I like to listen to music. 

地铁/ 地鐵 (dì tǐe): a noun meaning subway system. Beijing is filled with subway lines that will take you all over the city. Sometimes you have to transfer lines, but it is certainly much cheaper than taking a cab, and it is a great way to practice your listening... because if one thing is sure, you will not be alone on the subway. 我想去故宫。我可以座地铁到吗? wǒ xiǎng qù Gùgōng. wǒ kěyǐ zuò dìtiě dào mǎ? I want to go to the Forbidden City. Can I take the subway there?

学校/ 學校 (xúe xiào): a noun meaning school, which has the measure word 所 (sǔo). 学校明天放假. xúe xiào míngtiān fàngjià. There will be no school tomorrow.

书法/ 書法 (shū fǎ): a noun meaning calligraphy, one of the ancient art forms of China. I don't think this one really needs a sample sentence. However, I will say this, if you are thinking about learning calligraphy, then start paying attention to your stroke order early, and I would recommend studying traditional Chinese characters.

老师/ 老師 (lǎo shī): a noun meaning teacher. This character has three measure words depending on the situation or how much respect you are giving. Of course 个 can be used to say 一个老师, but you can also say 名 (míng) or even 位 (wèi), which are much more formal. 

包子 (bāo zi): a stuffed bun. This is a pretty staple breakfast in China. You can buy them individually, or per 笼 (lóng). 一笼包子多少钱? yī lóng bāozi duōshǎo qián? How much for a long of baozi?

厨师/ 廚師 (chú shī): a chef or a cook. For this noun you also want to use 位 as a sign of respect for the position. 

溜冰 (liū bīng): a verb-object pattern, which means to ice-skate or to roller-skate. This is quite popular among kids in the park, you will often seem them practicing in the afternoons while their parents chat with friends close by.

谢谢/ 謝謝 (xièxie): a verb meaning thank you. Much like 你好/您好, this is a set phrase that doesn't need any explanation. Saying 谢谢 is one of the easiest ways to get Chinese people to compliment you on your Chinese!

打盹 (dǎ dǔn): a verb-object pattern meaning doze or take a nap. 西班牙人午休的時候,通常會打盹一下. xībānyárén wǔxiū de shí hòu tōngcháng huì dǎdǔn yīxià. The Spanish often will take a nap during their mid-afternoon break. 

踢毽子 (tī jiànzi): another verb-object pattern meaning to play shuttlecock (or Chinese Hacky sack). It is a common sight to see in the park, and a lot of fun. 如果你去公园,你会看到很多人在踢毽子.  rúguǒ nǐ qù gōngyuán nǐ huì kàn dào hěn duō rén zài tī jiànzi. If you go to the park you will see a lot of people playing Chinese Hacky sack. 

菜单/ 菜單 (cài dān): a menu found in a restaurant. Not much explanation needed for this one. After you got a hold of a menu and ordered food you can say 买单 (mài dān) to ask for the bill.

筷子 (kuài zi): these are chopsticks, something that you should really learn how to use before you arrive in China. Even if Chinese people see you using them they might still ask: 你会用筷子吗? nǐ huì  yòng kuàizi ma? Can you use chopsticks? 

面条/ 麵條 (miàn tiáo): this is the standard way to say noodles. They come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Sometimes they drop the 条 off of the name of the dish so start focusing on 面 and remember that your getting noodles. 

卡拉OK (kǎ lā OK): a lone word meaning, you guessed it, Karaoke. This is a very popular pastime activity in China. You generally rent a private room where you and your friends can order snacks, and sing your hearts out. Karaoke bars have a wide variety of music, from Chinese to western, just be ready to make a fool out of yourself, and have a great time!

老人家 (lǎorenjia): an old person, just like the video suggests. As a fun note, this is also a colloquial slang for Chairman Mao Zedong. 

一 &  二 (yī and èr): the numbers one and two. I wasn't even going to list this because it is so basic, but I thought that the video was a little misleading in the way they presented to two children. In Chinese, you can also use the word 两 (liǎng), which is commonly used to describe two things, or two people. If you were describing the video you would not say 二个小孩子,but rather 两个小孩子.

晚饭/ 晚飯 (wǎnfàn): a noun meaning supper or dinner. Dinner uses the measure word 顿 (dùn), for example: 我刚刚吃了一大顿晚饭.  Wǒ gānggāng chī le yī dà dùn wǎn fàn. I just got done eating a huge dinner.

酸奶 (suānnǎi): a noun that means yogurt or sour milk. A must try if you are in China. 

晚上 (wǎnshang): meaning evening. 今天晚上你要去哪里? Jīntiān wǎnshàng nǐ yào qù nǎli? Where do you want to go tonight? 

早晨 (zǎochen): (early) morning or daybreak. This is the perfect time in Beijing. It isn't noisy on the street, the breakfast shops are already open, and people are congregating in the parks to enjoy the morning.

天坛/ 天壇 (Tiāntán): A proper noun meaning the Temple of Heaven (in Beijing). This is a wonderful place to check out if you are living in, or are visiting Beijing.

太极 (Tàijí): the Chinese for Tai chi, which is an abbreviated form of 太极拳 (tài jí quán). 

攀登 (pān dēng): a verb that means to climb, clamber or scale. 我半天一直在攀登,終於到山上了. Wǒ bàntiān yīzhí zài pāndēng zhōng yú dào shān shàng le. I climbed for half a day before I finally reached the top of the mountain.

长城/ 長城 (cháng chěng): The Great Wall of China! A place that everyone needs to see with their own eyes. No explanation necessary for this one. I'll just leave you with a picture.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.


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