Thursday, August 20, 2009

Learn Chinese - Direction / Points Of The Compass

This is just a quick 'lesson' outlining directions, ie the points of the compass: North, South East and West (and middle).

Although not particularly useful for navigating around town (I've never jumped into a taxi and said go north), knowing the terms can be very useful. This is especially true of the Chinese characters - learning to read North, South, East and West can help you recognise place names when you're travelling.

There's been more than one occasion when I've been confronted with a wall of destination names in Chinese and have sighed with relief when I've recognised the city I wanted, thanks to the presence of one of these characters.

Here they are, along with some example place names that use these characters:

English Pinyin Chinese Character Examples
North Běi Běijīng 北京, Dōngběi 东北
South Nán Nan2hai 南海, Hainan2 海南, Nánjīng 南京
East Dōng Guǎngdōng 广东, Dōngběi 东北
West 西 Guǎngxī 广西, Xīzàng 西藏
Middle Zhōng Zhōngguó 中国

As well as being found in city / province names, you'll also encounter these terms around town:

At the first school I taught at in China, we used to catch taxis (chūzūqìchē 出租汽车) to the west gate (xīmén 西门) of the school. Behind the school was the north ridge mountain (Běiling shān). In Beijing, you'll find Běihěi Park (north sea park 北海公园).

And so on and so forth, all over China.

You'll also see Zhong Shan all over China, although strictly speaking, Zhong Shan is a Chinese hero rather than Middle Mountain.

Anyway, learning the Chinese for the points of the compass will be useful for anyone living in or visiting China.

Key Phrases: Bei, Nan, Dong, Xi, Beijing, Dongbei, Nanhai, Hainan, Nanjing, Guangdong, Dongbei, Guangxi, Xizang, Zhong, Zhongguo, Chuzuqiche, Ximen, Beiling shan, Beihei park

Friday, August 14, 2009

Learn Chinese - A Cold And A Red Pen

Here is an amusing story (well sort of) that happened a few days ago.

I currently have a cold, or as you'd say in Chinese: Wǒ gǎnmào le (我感冒了). It's a very heavy cold and as a result, I have a red nose.

Seeing this, my wife said to my daughter "Bàba yǒu hóng bízi" (爸爸有红鼻子) or "Daddy has a red nose". I replied "What, I have a red pen?" (in English).

Of course, I know the difference between (鼻) and (笔), but this caused my daughter great merriment. Not particularly great humour, but it's a nice feeling to be able to make even a bad joke in Chinese.

For a little more value, here are some other illness related phrases, which I've found useful on occasion, when living in China. You'll find most of these in your Chinese phrasebook, but it's worth learning the basics for those occasions when you don't have the phrasebook at hand (or are too sick to read it!):

English Pinyin Chinese Characters
Where's the hospital? yīyuàn zàinǎ 医院在那
I need a doctor Wǒ děi jiàn dàifu 我得见大夫
I have a cold Wǒ gǎn mào le 我感冒了
I have been vomiting Wǒ yīzhí zài tù 我一直在土
I have diarrhoea Wǒ xièdùzi 我写肚子
I have a headache Wǒ tóuténg le 我头疼了

I've used all of these at times.

But really, if you're sick, the best thing to do is find someone who can speak Chinese well to translate for you. It's not the best time to be practicing your Chinese!

Any conversation with a doctor or hospital staff is likely to go far beyond what's written here (or for that matter in most phrasebooks).

Key phrases: you hong bizi, yiyuan zaina, wo dei jian daifu, wo ganmao le, wo yizhi zai tu, wo xieduzi, wo touteng le