Sing “Pearly Shells” in Chinese

Picked Blackberries

Picked Blackberries

Blue, blue my world is blue – the good kind of blue from the luscious blueberries (藍莓 lán méi) and blackberries (黑莓 hēi méi) in my yard begging to be picked. Duty-bound I don a white shirt with long sleeves, grab a 1 1/2 quart plastic container and head outside. It is my responsibility to unleash my gatherer instinct and free those anxious berries from their bondage to the same old bushes under the scorching sun.

What precision it takes to pluck each and every blackberry without being poked or scratched by the vicious thorns! And what delight it is to gently roll or rub a bunch of blueberries and nudge the ripe ones into the container! It does take some nerves, though, to work alongside the honeybees (蜜蜂 mìfēng) and not be intimidated by their constant buzzes and hums. My white shirt makes me basically invisible to these flying stingers. I just need to be careful not to pick from the same bunch the bees are after. Some of them zip around at lower elevations and bump into my long trousers once in a while.

An hour or so later, I come back inside with a quart of each kind of berries, fully intending to elevate their status to velvety berry sauces, to-die-for pies, or glistening jams and jellies. Alas, that is not to be. Eager hands fall upon the berries and plop them into eager mouths. Within minutes all berries are gone.

Oh well. Anyhow it’s too hot to be in the kitchen baking, canning or, for that matter, cooking. I stretch out on my favorite chair and dream about a vacation in Hawaii (夏威夷 xiàwēiyí). I imagine myself walking barefoot along the coastline, now and then picking up a seashell to admire. I come upon a group of adorable kids singing “Pearly Shells“. I smile and say, “Aloha!”

You might try singing the first part of this cute song in Chinese by substituting the English lyrics with the following lines.

Xiǎo bèiké,láizì hǎiyáng,
Little shells that came from the ocean,

biànbù shātān shàng,
spread all over the sandy beach,

yángguāng xià fāliàng.
glisten under the sunshine.

Kànjian tāmen,
Seeing them,

wǒ xīn míngbai wǒ ài de shì nǐ
my heart knows that the one I love is you,

jǐnguǎn nàxiē bèiké yǒu duō měilì.
despite the beauty of all the pearly shells.

来自 (láizì) means to come from a place. In Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes we came across this word while singing the phrase “I come from Alabama” in the song “Oh Susanna”. We use this word more often in writing than in speaking. Colloquially you would say “The little shells came from the ocean.” as follows:

Xiǎo bèiké shì cóng hǎiyáng lái de.

明白 (míngbai) as an adjective means clear or obvious. Used as a verb, it means to know, to understand or to realize, as shown in the following example.

Xiànzài wǒ míngbai le.
Now I understand.

You probably already know that “I love you” in Chinese is 我爱你 (Wǒ ài nǐ). 我爱的是你 (Wǒ ài de shì nǐ) emphasizes the choice of the person one loves. You would use this form when there is a doubt of which person you actually love and clarification is called for. When you need to clarify your intention or what you’ve just said, you could start the sentence with 我的意思是 (Wǒ de yìsī shì I mean, or what I meant is)

尽管 (jǐnguǎn), as used here, means “even though” or “in spite of”. This word also means “feel free to (do something)”, as shown in the following example:

不要担心. 你尽管去做.
Bùyào dānxīn. Nǐ jǐnguǎn qù zuò.
Don’t worry. Go ahead and do it.

Zhù xià ān!
Have a nice summer!


How to say “I understand” in Chinese

The highest reward for an instructor is to have helped a student thoroughly understand the material conveyed. There are a number of ways to acknowledge that you have understood a statement or a subject matter. Study the following sentences to get a feel of the different shades of meaning in the various expressions.

(dǒng) means to understand, to have knowledge about a subject, or to know how to do something.

Nǐ dǒng zhōngwén ma?
Do you know the Chinese language?

Wǒ dǒng zhōngwén.
I know Chinese.

Nǐ dǒng ma?
Do you understand?

Wǒ dǒng.
I understand.

Nǐ tīng de dǒng ma?
Are you able to understand what is being said?

Wǒ tīng de dǒng.
I am able to understand what is being said.

Nǐ dǒng le ma?
Did you get it?

Wǒ dǒng le.
I got it.

The last sentence above indicates a state of completion. Please review the verb tenses in Chapter 15 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“.

了解 (liǎojiě) means to understand or to comprehend completely.

Tā zuì liǎojiě wǒ.
He understands me the best.

理解 (lǐjiě) means to understand the sense or logic of something. 不能理解 (bùnéng lǐjiě) means unable to make sense of.

Wǒ bùnéng lǐjiě tā de zuòwéi.
I cannot understand his conduct.

明白 (míngbai) as an adjective means clear, plain or obvious. As a verb, it means to understand, to know or to realize.

Xiànzài wǒ wánquán míngbai le.
Now I totally understand.

清楚 (qīngchǔ) means distinct, clear or obvious. As a verb, it means to understand clearly. 弄清楚 (nòng qīngchǔ) or 搞清楚 (gǎo qīngchǔ) is to find out more about something to figure it out.

Wǒ gǎo bù qīngchǔ tā de yìsī.
I can’t figure out what he means.

知道 (zhīdào) and 晓得 (xiǎodé) both mean to know, to understand, to realize, or to be aware of something.

Nǐ zhīdào wǒ de yìsī ba?
You know what I mean, don’t you?

你知道吗? (Nǐ zhīdào ma?) could also be used to start an informal conversation – “You know? Blah, blah, blah.”

Elementary school teachers habitually follow their instructions with 知道吗? (Zhīdào ma? Understand?) and 晓得吧? (Xiǎodé ba? Understand?) We had a family friend who used to be a teacher. He would punctuate every remark with his pet phrase 晓得吧? (Xiǎodé ba?). This made him sound quite presumptuous.

领会 (lǐnghuì) is to understand or grasp the meaning of something.

会意 (huìyì) means to perceive someone’s unspoken thoughts or meaning. 会心 (huìxīn knowing, knowingly) is normally used as an adjective or an adverb.

Tā gěi le wǒ yī gè huìxīn de wēixiào.
She gave me a knowing smile.

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