Making choices in Chinese

What will your vacation spot be this year? Here are a few possibilities:

巴黎 (Bālí) Paris
罗马 (Luómǎ) Rome
北京 (Běijīng) Beijing
西雅图 (Xīyǎtú) Seattle
墨西哥 (Mòxīgē) Mexico
台湾 (Táiwān) Taiwan
亚马逊河 (yàmǎxùnhé) the Amazon River
埃及 (Aījí) Egypt
阿拉斯加 (Alāsījiā) Alaska
北极 (běijí) the North Pole

Please read Chapters 29 and 30 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to study names of places and various means of transporation.

After selecting the travel destination, there are still many choices to be made with regard to such things as mode of transportation, travel agency, tour group, accommodations. In fact, we are faced with making numerous choices each day even when we are not planning for a vacation – what to wear, what to buy, what to eat, what to say, what not to say, and so on. It will be good for us to learn the Chinese words for making various types of choices.

考虑 (kǎolǜ) means to consider or think over. 选择 (xuǎnzé) is to make a choice or selection. 考虑 (kǎolǜ) and 选择 (xuǎnzé) can also serve as nouns.

Kǎolǜ gèzhǒng yīnsù zài zuò xuǎnzé.
Take all factors into consideration then make a choice.

Both (xuǎn) and (zé) mean to choose or to select. These characters are often found in combination with other characters as shown in the following examples.

选购 (xuǎngòu) is to pick out and purchase.
选曲 (xuǎnqǔ) is to select songs or tunes.
选读 (xuǎndú) is to select books for reading.
选修 (xuǎnxiū) is to take an elective course.

选举 (xuǎnjǔ) is an election. In this democratic process, the candidates, 候选人 (hòuxuǎnrén), campaign for an office, i.e. 竞选 (jìngxuǎn compete in an election). The voters, 选民 (xuǎnmín), cast their votes, which are called 选票 (xuǎnpiào).

当选 (dāngxuǎn) is to be elected; and 落选 (luòxuǎn) is to lose an election.

Dàjiā tuīxuǎn Wáng Xiǎoxiá dāng bānzhǎng.
We elected Wang Xiaoxia to be our class leader.

In sports, an athlete selected for a sports competition is called 选手 (xuǎnshǒu).

择偶 (zéǒu) is short for 选择配偶 (xuǎnzé pèiǒu), which means to choose a mate. So, if you see on a form a blank with the heading 配偶 (pèiǒu), you are supposed to fill in the name of your spouse.

择善而从 (zéshànércóng) is maxim teaching people to choose to follow what is good.

不择手段 (bùzéshǒuduàn) is an idiom describing how some people would get what they want by fair means or foul.

饥不择食 (jībùzéshí) describes a state of being so hungry that one would eat anything and not be choosy.

决定 (juédìng) means to decide, to make up one’s mind, or to determine.

Wǒmén juédìng qù Alāsījiā dùjià.
We’ve decided to go to Alaska for vacation.

犹豫不决 (yóuyùbùjué) is to be indecisive.

他考虑了很久, 还是犹豫不决.
Tā kǎolǜ le hěn jiǔ, háishì yóuyùbùjué.
He thought about it for a long time, but still could not make up his mind.

Learn a few personal finance terms in Chinese

Dollar Sign-s
Summer is just around the corner. Think vacations. Think of it in Chinese. The word for a vacation or a leave of absence is 休假 (xiūjià). The word for going on a vacation is 度假 (dùjià), in which (dù) takes on the meaning of “to spend”.

Nǐ jīnnián yào qù nǎr dùjià?
Where are you vacationing this year?

But wait. Do you have enough money saved up for going to a vacation spot other than your own backyard? 旅費 (lǚfèi travel expenses), 膳食費 (shànshí fèi meal expenses) and 娛樂費用 (yúlè fèiyòng entertainment fees) all need to be provided for, you know.

Nǐ de yínháng hùtóu lǐ yǒu duōshao cúnkuǎn?
How much savings do you have in your bank account?

Nǐ měi yuè shōurù duōshao?
What’s your monthly earnings?

Nǐmen jiā měi gè yuè kāizhī duōshao?
How much are the monthly expenses of your household?

Yǒu méi yǒu dàikuǎnlìxī yào fù?
Do you have any interests on a loan to pay?

Are you counting on receiving dividends, or 股息 (gǔxī), from your investment in the stock market? The Chinese word for investment is 投资 (tóuzī). Keep in mind that the stock market, or 股票市场 (gǔpiàoshìchǎng), is quite volatile.

股票价格有时升值, 有时下降.
Gǔpiào jiàgé yǒushí shēngzhí, yǒushí xiàjiàng.
Stock prices sometimes appreciate, sometimes drop.

It’s important to have some savings, or 储蓄 (chǔxù). We want to save up not just for vacations but also for old age. Your 社会安全福利金 (shèhuì ānquán fúlì jīn social security income) may not be sufficient to cover all your living expenses.

Shěngqián jiùshì zhuànqián.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
(Saving money is making money.)

Jiéjiǎn shì měidé.
Frugality is a virtue.

Careful budgeting helps to ensure that one lives within one’s means. 平衡 (pínghéng) means being balanced. 收支平衡 (shōuzhī pínghéng) means the incomes and the expenses are balanced.

Should you come out ahead and have extra cash to spend, then congratulations! Start planning a vacation away from home. On the other hand, should you find yourself in the 入不敷出 (rù bù fū chū) situation, in which your income falls short of your expenses and you cannot make both ends meet, then you will probably have to satisfy your vacationing enthusiasm this year via armchair travel. A Chinese equivalent of armchair traveling is 卧游 (wò yóu). (wò) means to lie down, and (yóu) means to travel. This expression describes how one would lie on a recliner, holding a book or pictures of scenery, and travel mentally. 神游 (shén yóu) means to transport to a place mentally, not necessarily with a book or an iPad in hand.

Happy Father’s Day in Mandarin Chinese

Father’s Day is coming around next Sunday. Here’s wishing every father on earth a Happy Father’s Day! 父亲节快乐! (Fùqin jié kuàilè!)

This brings to conscious mind a song I heard with my dear father at a friend’s house way back when. That song has stuck with me ever since. To hear Lys Assia’s rendition of the original German song, “O Mein Papa”, please click here.

To hear Eddie Fisher’s performance of the English version, please click here.

Not everyone has a talented clown as his or her dad. Nonetheless, each of our fathers, present or absent, played or is playing an important role in our lives. If you would like to sing to this soulful tune in Chinese, you could try the following lines. You may need to look up a word or two in your Chinese dictionary, but this simple song should be easy to comprehend. Please note that 多才多艺 (duōcáiduōyì) is a set phrase used for describing a gifted person with many talents. In the Chinese translation of the song, I’ve broken it into two parts to fill in the required number of beats.

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

Tā duōme yǒuqù hé huáji.
Was full of fun and amusing plays.
(He was so amusing and funny.)

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

Tā duōcái yòu duōyì.
Was gifted in many ways.

Quánshìjiè shàng,
In all the world,

Wéi yǒu tā tiāntiān dōu kuàihuo.
None seemed as happy all year round.
(Only he is happy everyday.)

Quánshìjiè shàng,
In all the world,

Wéi yǒu tā bù jìmò.
None had more friends around.
(Only he is not lonely.)

Tāde xiàoliǎn
His smiling face

Xiàng chūntiān yángguāng de wēnnuǎn.
Was the balmy sunshine in the spring.

Tāde liǎng yǎn
His smiling eyes

Xiàng zuànshí jīng guāng shǎnshǎn.
Were gleaming diamonds sparkling.

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

Tā duōme yīngyǒng hé wěidà.
Was a hero everyone adored.
(He was so heroic and great.)

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

Wǒ yǒngyuǎn xiǎngniàn tā.
I’ll miss him forevermore.

By the way, it happens to be the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival today.

Duānwǔjié kuàilè!
Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

A Tip on Sounding out Chinese Characters

I have not met any Chinese-speaking person who knows all of the 40,000 + Chinese characters. In fact, we get by fairly well by having just a few thousand Chinese words under our belt. And, like you, from time to time, we encounter a word that we have not learned before. What to do when you come across such a word while reading a document but are too lazy to look it up in a lexicon? Many of us would simply take a shot at it by employing a method known as 有边念边 (yǒu biān niàn biān). (biān) means the side or edge of something, while (niàn) in this phrase means to read. In other words, if the character contains a radical, then try sounding out the remaining part. As you will see from the following examples, this method actually works in very many cases.

The Chinese word for crickets is 蟋蟀. Remove the insect radical from the first character, and you would get (xī), which is the formal word for “entirely” or to “learn about something”. As for the second character, you already know that is pronounced as “shuài” when it means “to lead”. Voilà! 蟋蟀 (xīshuài crickets).

(qīng) is a blue or green color. It also represents youth. (qīng), which means clear, clarified, thoroughly, clear up or clean up, sounds exactly the same. 蜻蜓 (qīngtíng) is a dragonfly, and 鯖魚 (qīng yú) is a mackerel.

In some cases, the tone is different. For example, (qíng clear, sunny) is in the second tone and (qǐng to request or to invite, please) is in the third tone.

Xīshuài hé qīngtíng dōushì kūnchóng.
Crickets and dragongflies are all insects.

(yáng) is a goat or a sheep.
(yáng) means vast, foreign, or an ocean.
(yáng) means to pretend.
氧气 (yǎngqì) is oxygen
(yǎng) means to cultivate, to nourish or to provide for.
(yàng) means appearance, shape or pattern.

(fēn) is polyphonic. In the first tone, it means to divide, to differentiate or to distribute. It also means a grade point. In the fourth tone, it could refer to components – 成分 (chéngfèn) or one’s duty – 本分 (běnfèn).

Tā fēnpèi le qīngsōng de gōngzuò gěi wǒ.
He assigned an easy job to me.

芬芳 (fēnfāng) means a sweet smell, or sweet-smelling.
气氛 (qìfēn) is the ambiance.
(fěn) is a powder, or noodles made from starch. It is also used to characterize a pale color. So, 粉红色 (fěnhóngsè) is a pink color.
(fèn) is a share or a portion.
气忿 (qì fèn) means indignation, or to be angry. It is akin to the word 气愤 (qì​fèn anger, being angry). See? If you use the wrong tones for 气氛 (qìfēn), it might be interpreted as resentment or vehement anger.

As an exercise, find a few words that comprise (fāng square or rectangular, honest, locality) and are pronounced similarly.

Keep in mind, though, that this method does not always work. As you may recall from a number of my previous blog posts, (dōng) refers to the east direction. However, Mr. Chen, or 陈先生 (Chén Xiānsheng), may get a good laugh if you address him as Mr. Dong.

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