Sing “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” in Chinese

Tongue-in-cheek

Tongue-in-cheek

There are usually a few different ways to translate an English name to Chinese. Over the years standardized translations have evolved for many well-known names. For example, when I see 林肯 (Línkěn), I know right a way that it most likely refers to President Abraham Lincoln. (It would be interesting, though, for a Chinese guy with the last name Lin to give his son this famous name.)

The folk song “I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago” names a number of prominent figures from the Bible, or 圣经 (shèngjīng). I first came across this song in Jerry Silverman’s “Beginning Folk Guitar”. At this link is Elvis Presley’s spirited version of this song.

Now, Elvis Presley’s Chinese name is a mouthful that I don’t care to mention here. In Taiwan, he is simply known as 猫王 (Máo Wáng King of Cats). By the way, Ann-Margret was dubbed 女猫王 (Nǚ Máo Wáng Queen of Cats).

Anyway, one of the verses of “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” goes as follows:

Yeah, I was born about ten thousand years ago.
Ain’t nothing in this world that I don’t know.
Saw Peter, Paul and Moses playing ring around the roses.
I’ll lick the guy that says it isn’t so.

Perhaps you will be inspired to sing my translation in Chinese:

我出生在一万年前的时候.
Wǒ chūshēng zài yī wànnián qián de shíhòu.
I was born around ten thousand years ago.

天下没有一件事我不吃透.
Tiānxià méiyǒu yī jiàn shì wǒ bù chītòu.
There isn’t a single thing under the sky that I don’t know.

见过彼得,保罗,摩西,
Jiàn guò Bǐdé, Bbǎoluó, Móxī;
I met Peter, Paul and Moses,

他们一同玩著游戏.
Tāmen yītóng wán zhe yóuxì.
Who were playing games together.

谁敢說不信? 莫非他想挨揍?
Shéi gǎn shuō bù xìn? Mòfēi tā xiǎng áizòu?
Who dares to say he doesn’t believe so,
unless he is asking for a spanking?

出生 (chūshēng) as a verb means to be born. As a noun it refers to the status of the family into which one was born.

他出生卑微.
Tā chūshēng bēiwēi.
He was born petty and low.

吃透 (chītòu)means to have a thorough grasp of something.

The Pharaoh is called 法老 (fǎlǎo). King David is 大卫王 (Dàwèi wáng). Jonah is 约纳 (Yuēnà). And Noah’s Ark is called 诺亚方舟 (Nuòyà fāngzhōu).

莫非 (mòfēi) means the same as 除非 (chúfēi unless).

(ái), when pronounced in the second tone, means to suffer or endure. For example, 挨打 (áidǎ) and 挨揍 (áizòu) refer to taking a beating, 挨骂 (áimà) means to be chided, and 挨饿 (áiè) is to starve.

Don’t be mad in Chinese

It’s human nature to get angry sometimes for various reasons. The Chinese word for getting mad or angry is 生气 (shēngqì) or 发脾气 (fāpíqi). (pí) is the spleen. It seems the ancient Chinese viewed anger as being a sort of qi coming out of the spleen when one gets fumed. Therefor losing one’s temper is apt to be bad for one’s health.

When a friend is mad about something, you are apt to advise him:

不要生气.
Bùyào shēngqì.
Don’t be mad.

At some small local Chinese eateries, you may see plastered on the wall a paper poster with the following lines on it. The colloquial verses are meant to help reduce quarrels between married couples, but the unknown author speaks truth that applies to everyone else as well.

莫生气 (Mò Shēngqì Don’t Be Mad)

人生就像一场戏;
Rénshēng jiù xiàng yī chǎng xì,
Life is like a theatrical play;

因为有缘才相聚.
yīnwei yǒu yuán cái xiāng jù.
we’ve met because of fate.

相扶到老不容易,
Xiāng fú dào lǎo bù róngyì.
It’s not easy to have come thus far through thick and thin,

是否更该去珍惜?
shìfǒu gèng gāi qù zhēnxī?
shouldn’t we cherish our relationship the more?

为了小事发脾气,
Wèile xiǎoshì fāpíqi,
Getting mad over trivial things,

回头想想又何必?
huítóu xiǎng xiǎng yòu hébì?
when you think about it, what for?

别人生气我不气;
Biérén shēngqì wǒ bù qì.
Others may get mad, but I won’t;

气出病来无人替.
Qì chū bìng lái wú rén tì.
’cause if I get sick, who’s to replace me?

我若气死谁如意?
Wǒ ruò qì sǐ shéirúyì?
Should I die from fury, who will benefit?

况且伤身又费力.
Kuàng qiě shāng shēn yòu fèilì.
Besides, it’s too exhausting and strenuous to get mad.

邻居亲朋不要比.
Línjū qīn péng bùyào bǐ.
Don’t try to measure up to neighbors, relatives and friends.

儿孙琐事由他去.
érsūn suǒshì yóu tā qù.
As for the petty bothers of the children, let them be.

吃苦享乐在一起,
Chīkǔ xiǎnglè zàiyīqǐ.
Together we’ll share our joys and hardships,

神仙羡慕好伴侣.
shénxian xiànmù hǎo bànlǚ.
and let the gods envy our good companionship.

Signing in Chinese

二手货 (èrshǒuhuò) means second-hand merchandise. Here, the word (èr two) refers to 第二 (dìèr second, or secondly). If you mean to say “both hands”, then say 两只手 (liǎng zhī shǒu two hands), or 双手 (shuāngshǒu both hands).

When a word or expression escapes us, we might make a gesture to help convey what we are trying to say. Hand gestures are also often used to emphasize a point. In fact, certain facial expressions and hand gestures are an integral part of some languages. For people with impaired hearing and/or speech, the ability to employ sign language is a true blessing. The Chinese word for sign language is 手语 (shǒuyǔ).

Associating an expression with a gesture will actually make it easier to learn that expression. You are more apt to remember a Chinese word when you say it often, write it often, sing it often and repeatedly see an object or scene or do an action involving that word. Storing the word in multiple channels, so to speak, allows it to be more readily recalled when you need it.

To try your hand at signing in Chinese, click on this link: 手牵手 (Shǒu Qiān Shǒu Hand in Hand) and follow the demonstration performed by the four Malaysian students.

牵手 (qiān shǒu) is to hold hands.
花开 (huā kāi) describes how flowers open up, or bloom. 花谢 (huā xiè) describes how flowers wither. These natural phenomena signify the change of seasons, or 季节的转移 (jìjiě de zhuǎnyí).
面对 (miànduì) is to face or to confront.
未来的 (wèilái) means future.
分离 (fēnlí) means to separate or to leave each other. It is synonymous with 分手 (fēnshǒu). Here it is used as noun (separation).
牢记 (láojì) is to keep firmly in mind.
这段 (zhè duàn) means “this section of” or “this segment of”.
记忆 (jìyì) is memory or remembrance.
朋友 (péngyǒu) are friends.
我永远祝福你. (Wǒ yǒngyuǎn zhùfú nǐ.) – I will always wish you well.
人生 (rénshēng) is life.
一定 (yīdìng) means for sure, certainly.
起落 (qǐluò) means rise and fall, or ups and downs.
不要伤心. (bùyào shāngxīn) – “Don’t feel sad.”
我会在你身边. (Wǒ huì zà nǐ shēnbiān.) – I will be by your side.
鼓励 (gǔlì) is encouragement. This word can also be used as a verb.
愿意 (yuàny) means to be willing to.
把我们的手牵在一起. (Bǎ wǒmén de shǒu qiān zài yīqǐ.) – Let’s join our hands together.
(yòng) means to use.
青春的 (qīngchūn) means youthful.
(xiě) is to write, and 奇迹 (qíjì) is a miracle.
放在一起 (fàng zài yīqǐ) means to place together.
(xīn) is the heart.
共同 (gòngtóng) means jointly.
度过 (dùguò) is to undergo or to endure.
风和雨 (fēng hé yǔ wind and rain) refers to the troubles in life.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming up tomorrow. May those of you who are far away from home have friends with whom to celebrate this happy occasion.

中秋节快乐!
Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè.
Have a happy Moon Festival!

Teamwork in Chinese (2)

There was once a monk who lived by himself in the mountains. Each day he had to walk a distance to a creek, fill a large wooden tub with water and carry it back to use as drinking water. Years later, another monk came to join him at the small temple. Everyday the two monks would each hold one side of the handle of the large tub to carry water back from the creek. The first monk was glad to have someone share the heavy load. Then came a third monk to join them, and a problem arose: Each monk counted on the other two to do the chore. Hence the following Chinese saying:

一个和尚提水喝.
Yī gè héshàng tí shuǐ hē.
One monk will carry the water by himself for drinking.

两个和尚抬水喝.
Liǎng gè héshàng tái shuǐ hē.
Two monks will carry the water together for drinking.

三个和尚没水喝.
Sān gè héshàng méi shuǐ hē.
With three monks there will be no water to drink.

和尚 (héshàng) is a Buddhist monk, usually with shaven head and wearing a long robe.

(tí) is to carry something, such as luggage, with the arm down. (tái) is to lift something up, or having two people carry something together. (méi) is the abbreviation of 没有 (méiyǒu have not, be without).

Appareantly, the three monks had not thought of taking turns in doing their share of the work.

我们轮流值班.
Wǒmén lúnliu zhíbān.
We take turns in being on duty.

A team needs responsible and reliable members who are willing to help oneanother and work together to resolve issues.

负责 (fùzé) means to be responsible for or to be in charge of. Please note that 负责人 (fùzérén) refers to the person in charge, while 负责的人 (fùzé de rén) describes a conscientious person.

(kào) means to lean on. Therefore, 可靠 (kěkào) means dependable, reliable, or trustworthy. 可靠性 (kěkàoxìng) is dependability or reliability.

这个人不可靠.
Zhègè rén bù kěkào.
This person is not trustworthy.

互相帮助 (hùxiāng bāngzhù) is to help each other out, and 互相容忍 (hùxiāng róngrěn) is to tolerate or to put up with each other.

和谐 (héxié) means harmonious, and 相处 (xiāngchǔ) means to get along with each other. Therefore, 和谐相处 (héxié xiāngchǔ) means to get along harmoniously.

The adverb “together” has several Chinese equivalents, with slightly different nuances in meaning.
一同 (yītóng) applies to doing the same things together at the same time and place.
一齐 (yīqí) applies to doing things together at the same time or in unison.
一起 (yīqǐ) applies to doing things together in the same place.
一道 (yīdào) applies to doing things together alongside each other.

我们一同把问题解决了.
Wǒmén yītóng bǎ wèntí jiějué le.
We resolved the issue together.

好极了!
Hǎo jíle!
Bravo!

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