Chinese word for learning

For some of you, school may have just started after the long summer vacation. It’s time to think less about visits and travels and more about your studies. As this video shows, it is a blessing that we have the capability to learn new things.

The Chinese word for learning or studying is (xué) or 学习 (xuéxí). One is never too old to learn. To put it in Chinese,

活到老, 学到老.
Huó dào lǎo xué dào lǎo.
We live and learn.

(huó) means to live or being alive.
(dào) means to arrive, to reach, or up until.
(lǎo) means old, aged or outdated.

Indeed there is no limit to knowledge and learning. The classical Chinese idiom for this observation is:
学无止境 (xuéwúzhǐjìng)

You should give yourself a pat on the back for taking on the challenge of studying the Chinese language.

Xué zhōngwén bù shì yī jiàn róngyì de shì.
Leaning Chinese is not an easy task.

We’ve previously discussed a few words that refer to learning at school. (See the article posted on 6/1/11.) Following are several additional words and expressions containing (xué), and I encourage you to look up a few more on your own to study.

大学生 (dàxuésheng) does not mean a big student but rather a university student as 大学 (dàxué) is a university or a college. 学院 (xuéyuàn) is a college or an academy.

同学 (tóngxué) is a schoolmate. Specifically, 同班同学 (tóngbāntóngxué) is a classmate.

学问 (xuéwen) means learning or knowledge. 学科 (xuékē) is a study course, a subject or a branch of learning. For example, 文学 (wénxué) is literature, 科学 (kēxué) is science, and 地质学 (dìzhíxué) is geology.

Zhāng xiānsheng hěn yǒu xuéwen.
Mr. Zhang is very learned.

学位 (xuéwèi) is an academic degree. 学士 (xuéshì) is a scholar or one holding a bachelor’s degree.

学费 (xuéfèi) means tuition, and 学分 (xuéfēn) is a credit one can earn by studying at an academic institution.

Jīnnián xuéfèi yòu zhàng le.
This year the tuition has soared again.

学徒 (xuétú) is an apprentice.

博学多才 (bóxuéduōcái) is a phrase for describing someone of great learning and abilities.

才疏学浅 (cáishūxuéqiǎn having little talent and learning) is what you might say of yourself to show humbleness.

不学无术 (bùxuéwúshù) means ignorant and incompetent. This phrase could be used when talking about someone of whom you don’t have a high opinion.

(xí) means to practice, to review or to get used to. 习题 (xítí) is an exercise in school work.

练习 (liànxí) is to practice. 见习 (jiànxí) is to learn on the job. Therefore, a student working as a trainee is called 见习生 (shēng).

Confucius said,
学而时习之, 不亦悦乎.
Xué er shí xí zhī, bù yì yuè hū.
To learn and to review the material from time to time, isn’t that delightful?

演习 (yǎnxí) is a drill or a maneuver.

习惯 (xíguàn) is a habit. As a verb it means to become accustomed to. 恶习 (èxí) is a pernicious habit.

Wǒ yǐjīng xíguàn tā de lěngmò.
I’ve already gotten used to her cold attitude.

Blackberry in Chinese



As the picture on this page shows, I’m not talking about a PDA device but rather the edible blackberry, 黑莓 (hēi méi), which is now in season here. The summer air is filled with the sweet aroma of the luscious berries that are waiting to be picked and popped into the mouth. If one is not careful, one will pay the price of being pricked or scratched by the thorny brier.

As we have discussed previously, (cì) means a thorn. As a verb, it means to pierce or poke into something.

Wǒ de hēi méi cì le.
My thumb got jabbed.

The sting of a bee or a wasp is called 蜂刺 (fēngcì). Fishbones are called 鱼刺 (yúcì). Not surprisingly, a hedgehog is called 刺猬 (cìwèi).

刺痛 (cìtòng) means a tingle. As a verb it means to hurt by stabbing with a small pointed object like a needle.

Other things can sting without making physical contact with you.

Ear-piercing sounds or harsh words may be described as 刺耳 (cìěr grating on the ear). And things that are offending to the eye are said to be 刺眼 (cìyǎn) or 不顺眼 (bù shùnyǎn).

Tā shuō de huà jù jù cìěr.
Every sentence he uttered grated on my ear.

As an exercise, try making a sentence in Chinese that translates to: “His words stabbed my heart.”

A biting wind is often described as 刺骨 (cìgǔ piercing to the bones).

刺激 (cìjī) means to stimulate, to provoke or to upset.

Bùyào zài cìjī tā le.
Stop irritating him.

You may wonder why in the above sentence there is not a Chinese word for stopping. In Chinese, instead of asking someone to stop doing something, you would normally just request that someone to not continue the action. Therefore, this is how you would ask someone to stop weeping:

Bùyào zài kū le.

刺杀 (cìshā) means to assassinate. The assassin is called 刺客 (cìkè).

刺绣 (cìxiù) is to embroider using a needle with a sharp point. As a noun, it refers to an embroidered article, which is also called 刺绣品 (cìxiùpǐn).

As (cì) means to pierce or to poke, it makes sense that making roundabout or secret inquiries is referred to as 刺探 (cìtàn). And it also makes sense that 讽刺 (fěngcì to mock or satirize) also contains the (cì) character.

Now, take a look at the character (là). If you look closely, you will see it is slightly different from (cì) – the little rectangle is closed off and does not have spikes poking down.

(là) means obstinate, pompous or disrespectful, as in 大剌剌 (dà là là with a swagger).

A word that sounds like (là) but is much more commonly used is

(là), or 辛辣 (xīnlà), means spicy hot, pungent, biting or ruthless.

辣椒 (làjiāo) are hot peppers, and 辣酱 (làjiàng) is a hot chili sauce or a hot chili paste.

A woman who is unreasonable, shrewish and attacks people with pungent words would be described as 潑辣 (pōlà).

Tā de qīzi shì gè pōlà de nǚrén
His wife is a shrew.

Sing Aloha Oe in Chinese

One of the meanings of the word (bié) is to leave or to part. The “knife” radical on the right-hand side signifies the separation.

离别 (líbié) and 别离 (biélí) both mean to leave or to part for a long period of time.

告别 (gàobié) and 辞别 (cíbié) mean to take leave of, to say good-bye or to bid farewell.

拜别 (bàibié) is to respectively say good-bye or bid farewell.

送别 (sòngbié) is to see someone off. 送别晚会 (sòngbié wǎnhuì) is a send-off soiree.

告辞 (gàocí) is to take leave of one’s host. On the other hand, 不辞而别 (bùcíérbié) is to leave without bidding good-bye.

Wǒ bùnéng lǐjiě tā wèishénme bùcíérbié.
I cannot comprehend why he took off without saying good-bye.

“Farewell to Thee” is a world-renowned song composed by Queen Liliuokalano. It expresses the sentiments of parting with a loved one who lives in a bautiful place that is Hawaii.

Have you wondered why Hawaii is called 夏威夷 (Xiàwēiyí) in Chinese when (xià summer) sounds quite different from “Ha”? Well, in earlier days, many overseas Chinese were Cantonese, and in the Cantonese dialect the “x” pinyin sound is pronounced like “h”, and (xià) is pronounced “ha”.

We’ve been singing “Aloha Oe” in Chinese since grade school, but I have not been able to find out who the translator was. Although the wording is different from the original lyrics, the Chinese version also aptly portrays the reluctance, the acceptance and the hope at play while bidding farewell to a dear friend. At this link is the song sung by a group of middle school students. I think you will appreciate their clear enunciation of the Chinese lyrics.

绵绵 (miánmián) describes a soft continuous mass. (mì) means dense, thick, fine or secret. Here it refers to the thick clouds. Some versions of the lyrics start out with 浓密密 (nóng mì mì), which also means thick and dense.

乌云 (wūyún) are dark clouds.
(duī) is to pile up. (mǎn) means full of. 堆满 (duī mǎn) describes how the dense dark clouds are piled on on the mountaintop, or 山顶 (shāndǐng).

笼罩著 (lǒngzhào zhe) means enveloping or shrouding. The object of this action are the woods, or 树林 (shùlín).

山谷中 (shāngǔ zhōng) means in the valley.

吹来 (chuī lái) means blowing or wafting towards the observer.

凄凉的 (qīliáng de) means desolate, dreary, sad. 微风 (wēifēng) is a gentle breeze.

激动起 (jīdòng qǐ) means to rouse up or to incite.

(sī ) means thoughts. In formal Chinese it also acts as the verb “to think”. (qíng) are feelings and emotions. 别思 (bié sī) and 离情 (lí qíng) both refer to the thoughts and emotions at parting.

珍重 (zhēnzhòng) means to take good care of yourself and stay well, and 再见 (zàijiàn) is good-bye.

亲爱的朋友 (qīnài de péngyǒu) means dear friend or dear friends.

就在眼前 (jiù zài yǎnqián) means right before one’s eyes, or right at this moment.

从今以后 (cóngjīnyǐhòu) means starting from today.

Here, (dào) means until. 下次 (xiàcì) is next time. 相见 (xiàng jiàn) is to see each other. (qián) means before or in front of.

会感到 (huì gǎndào) means “we will feel”. 心酸 (xīnsuān) means heart ache. The use of (huì) as an auxiliary verb has been mentioned in several articles at this blog site and is discussed in Chapter 16 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

How to dance to this song? Click on this link to watch the lovely hula dance performed by Punihei Anthony.

Learn Chinese word radical – Knife

Watermelon 西瓜 (xīgua)

Watermelon 西瓜 (xīgua)

Jīntiān hǎo rè ya!
It’s so hot today!

Wǒ qù mǎi gè xīgua.
I’ll go buy a watermelon.

How best to cut up a watermelon? At this link is shown a clever way to dissect this large round mass with minimal messiness.

The Chinese word for cutting or slicing is (qiē). (gē) just means to cut. Put the two characters together, and you have a new word, 切割 (qiēgē), which means to make an incision or to cut and sever.

(dāo) is a knife. You can see that there are seven cuts in the character (qiē).

As a verb, (fēn) means to divide, to separate or to differentiate. There are eight cuts in this character. After the division, each portion or part is called 一份 (yī fèn).

(bàn) means to play a part in a drama.

忿 (fèn) means vehement. 忿怒 (fèn nù) means fury or furious (very angry).

(rèn) is the edge of a knife or a sword. The word for endure, forbear or tolerate, (rěn), features a heart being knifed. This is definitely more painful than biting one’s lip. 忍不住 (rěnbuzhù) means unable to bear.

Tā rěnbuzhù kū le chūlai.
She couldn’t help but start to weep.

In some words, the knife radical is place at the top. For example, (jiǎo) is a horn, an angle or a corner. On the other hand, 角色 (juésè) means a role in a drama.

危险 (wēixiǎn) means danger or dangerous.

(miǎn) means to eliminate, to remove from office or to excuse someone from something (i.e. to remove the responsibility from someone).

Zhèyàng kěyǐ miǎn diào bùshǎo máfan.
This way we can avoid a lot of trouble.

(xíng) is a corporal punishment or prison sentence. It features a “knife” word radical in the vertical format on the right-hand-side.

(pàn) means to differentiate, as in 判别 (pànbié) , to make a judgement, as in 判断 (pànduàn), or to issue a sentence, as in 判刑 (pàn xíng). 免刑 (miǎnxíng) means to exempt from punishment.

Wǒ pànduàn zhè xiāoxi bù zhēnshí.
I think this piece of information is not true.

(kè) is to carve or engrave. As a noun it means a moment of time. 立刻 (lìkè) means “at once”.

(shuā) is to brush or to eliminate.

(cì) is to pierce or to stab. As a noun it means a thorn or a fish bone.

(duò) is to cut by chopping. (xiāo) is to cut by whittling.

(tì) is to shave. Therefore, shaving a beard is called 剃胡子 (tì húzi).

(guā) is to scrape or fleece. 刮胡子 (guā húzi) also means to shave one’s beard or mustache. In Taiwan, this is a slang expression that means to criticize or refute someone in his or her face.

Wǒ bèi tā guā le yī gè húzi.
I got a slap in the face from him.

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