Friday, November 15, 2013

More Fun with Chinese

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and I’m trying to study my Chinese, even though the air is clear and it’s not that cold out yet.
But I’m being virtuous. Even so, I’m stymied by the bizarro nature of the conversations that the protagonists of my book, “New Practical Chinese Reader,” engage in. I realize that these are not REAL conversations, but it’s distracting.
Our hero, Ma Dawei, wants to buy a CD (a guangpan). Yes, I know, who goes out and buys CDs anymore? Anyway, he runs into his friend Wang Xiaoyun in the CD shop. He tells him he’s buying an English music CD. His buddy talks him into buying a Chinese music CD, “liang zhu,” which is “butterfly lovers.” (Thank you Google.)
And then the conversation gets really weird. Suddenly Dawei asks his friend if he could also buy books and newspapers in that store. Right, Dawei. You can’t fool me. You’re just trying to make sure that the students remember shu () and baozhi.
I put away the ever-engrossing “New Practical Chinese Reader” and get out my iPad, which has two good apps: Writer and trainchinese. Trainchinese in particular likes to give examples of the way a word is used in context, and the more you dig into that well, the more you learn about what’s really on the mind of Chinese people.
Take, for example, the word “ji,” which means engine or machine. You get all the iterations that use ji, and as you scroll down the list of examples, you start to get longer sentences, like this: “The airport was forced to be closed due to the heavy rain” and “Chances only favor those who have got well prepared.”
Trying another word, I look at bao, newspaper. (Keep in mind that bao, same tone and same character, means “to report, to repay, to revenge.” And other versions of bao with different characters and different tones mean to hug or carry in the arms – little kids will scream “bao bao!” when they want to be held – and also, with a different character and different tone “treasure or baby.” But I digress.)
Bao the newspaper’s example sentence is: “They have reported about this incident on the newspaper.”
I have no comment.
I move on to jiao, to teach or instruct. Here’s one usage: Jiao shi you bei cheng zuo yuan ding. Teachers are also called as gardeners.
And then I find this: Jiao cai zhong de hui hua yao sheng huo hua. The dialogues in the textbook should be lifelike.

Hear that Ma Dawei?

Update: I realized today that I got two Chinese words confused: baozhi (newspapers) and baozi (buns). I'll never learn this language.

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