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.

小贝壳,来自海洋,
Xiǎo bèiké,láizì hǎiyáng,
Little shells that came from the ocean,

遍布沙滩上,
biànbù shātān shàng,
spread all over the sandy beach,

阳光下发亮.
yángguāng xià fāliàng.
glisten under the sunshine.

看见它们,
Kànjian tāmen,
Seeing them,

我心明白我爱的是你,
wǒ xīn míngbai wǒ ài de shì nǐ
my heart knows that the one I love is you,

尽管那些贝壳有多美丽.
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:

小贝壳是从海洋来的.
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.

现在我明白了.
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.

祝夏安!
Zhù xià ān!
Have a nice summer!

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Anxiety and Worries in Chinese

You’re late for a meeting, yet the traffic happens to be congested. You feel anxious, or 着急 (zháojí) and impatient, 不耐烦 (bùnàifán), but there’s not much you can do about it. Next time, start out earlier.

(jí), featuring a heart radical at the bottom, means fast, rapid or urgent. When describing a person, it means impatient, hot-headed, anxious, eager, or worried.

别着急, 我们一会儿就到了.
Bié zháojí. Wǒmén yīhuìr jiù dào le.
Don’t worry. We will get there in a moment.

(jiāo), with a fire radical at the bottom, means burnt or scorched. Therefore, when one is extremely anxious, the descriptive word to use is 焦急 (jiāojí). 焦躁 (jiāozào) describes someone who is restless and impatient with anxiety.

An urgent matter is called 急事 (jí shì). 急件 (jíjiàn) is an urgent dispatch or a document that requires immediate attention.

急救 (jíjiù) means first aid. 急诊 (jízhěn) means immediate care or emergency treatment. 挂号 (guàhào) is to register at an office (such as a hospital or a motor vehicle division). It also means to send something by registered mail.

我要挂急诊.
Wǒ yào guà jízhěn.
I need to register for immediate care.

她收到一封挂号信.
Tā shōudào yī fēng guàhào xìn.
She received a registered letter.

(lǜ), as a verb, means to consider, to ponder or to think over. As an adjective, it means feeling anxious or worried, as in 忧虑 (yōulǜ concerned). 焦虑 (jiāolǜ) is to feel utterly anxious and worried.

烦恼 (fánnǎo) means worries or troubles. It can also be used as an adjective that means being vexed or worried. 苦恼 (kǔnǎo) has pretty much the same meaning.

这件事令我非常烦恼.
Zhè jiàn shì ling wǒ fēicháng fánnǎo.
This matter troubles me very much.

(dān) is to carry on a pole over the shoulder. (dàn), in the fourth tone, refers to the load carried. 担担面 (dàndànmiàn) is a spicy noodle snack dish that originated in the Sichuan Province of China. It used to be sold by peddlers who walked the streets carrying baskets suspended from a pole they balanced on their shoulders.

(dān) also means to take on a burden. Therefore, 担心 (dānxīn) is to worry about something that weighs on your heart. 担忧 (dānyōu) also means to feel worried.

昨夜我担心得睡不着.
Zuóyè wǒ dānxīn de shuì bù zháo.
Last night I was so worried that I could not sleep.

睡着 (shuì zháo) means to fall asleep.

怎样能够无忧无虑?
Zěnyàng nénggòu wúyōuwúlǜ?
How to achieve equanimity and be carefree?

Sing “Worried Man Blues” featured in Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

Fear in Chinese

Dark clouds have gathered overhead, heavy with moisture, ready for Halloween, or 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié). It’s time again to talk about words that relate to terror and fear.

As a noun 恐怖 (kǒngbù) means horror or terror. This word also serves as an adjective. 恐怖片 (kǒngbù piàn) is a horror movie.

我不喜欢听恐怖故事.
Wǒ bù xǐhuān tīng kǒngbù gùshi.
I don’t like to listen to horror tales.

恐惧 (kǒngjù) and 惧怕 (jùpà) both mean fear or dread. (gǎn) is a feeling. Therefore, 恐惧感 (kǒngjù gǎn) is the feeling of fear.

他对于考试有很大的恐惧感.
Tā duìyú kǎosh yǒu hěn dà de kǒngjù gǎn.
He has an immense dread of taking exams.

(pà), or 害怕 (hàipà), means to fear, to dread, or to be worried about something. What radicals make up the (pà) character? Yes, one could get so scared that even the heart turns pale and white.

我最怕蛇.
Wǒ zuì pà shé.
I’m scared of snakes the most.

我不怕他.
Wǒ bù pà tā.
I’m not afraid of him.

To the Chinese, as to many other people, (heaven, sky) and (earth) are both very sacred and powerful. When one wants to exaggerate the dread for something, one would often use the expression: 天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕 . . (Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà zhǐ pà . . ), i.e. “More than heaven and earth, I dread . . “.

In fact, there is a saying that goes like this:

天不怕, 地不怕, 只怕老外说中国话.
Tiān bùpà, dì bùpà, zhǐ pà lǎo wài shuō Zhōngguó huà.
More than anything else, I dread listening to foreigners speak Chinese.

老外 (lǎo wài) is slang for a western foreigner. Also, foreigners are often referred to as 洋人 (yángrén). As these terms have some negative connotations, we do not use them in our family. We usually refer to foreigners by their countries, such as 美国人 (měiguórén Americans) or 澳洲人 (àozhōurén Australians). If the country is unknown, then we’d use 外国人 (wàiguórén).

Click on this link to listen to a humorous self-mockery delivered in perfect Mandarin pronunciation.

If you are still unsure about the five tones used in Mandarin, the video I posted recently on YouTube might help.

怕死 (pàsǐ) means to be afraid of dying. However, 怕生 (pàshēng) does not mean being scared of life. Here, (shēn) is the abbreviation of 生人 (shēngrén) or 陌生人 (mòshēngrén), which is a stranger. Therefore, 怕生 (pàshēng) means being shy of strangers.

Note also that 怕人 (pàrén) does not mean being afraid of people. Rather, it means horrible, or scary to people, same as 可怕 (kěpà).

Just like (ài love) often stands for “to like”, (pà fear) can be used in the sense of “to dislike”.

我怕吵闹.
Wǒ pà chǎonào.
I dislike noises.

只怕 (zhǐ pà) can also mean “I’m afraid that . . .”. In this case, it is used in a similar way as 恐怕 (kǒngpà perhaps, I’m afraid that . . .). The following three statements express the same idea

只怕他不会来.
Zhǐ pà tā bùhuì lái.
I’m afraid that he won’t be coming.

他恐怕不会来.
Tā kǒngpà bùhuì lái.
He will probably not be coming.

我担心他不会来.
Wǒ dānxīn tā bù huì lái.
I’m afraid (worried) that he won’t come.

The following sentence illustrates yet another usage of 只怕 (zhǐ pà). In this instance, this expression translates to “as long as”.

天下无难事, 只怕有心人.
Tiānxià wú nánshì, zhǐ pà yǒuxīnrén.
No task is difficult when there is a determined person.
(Where there is a will, there is a way.)

Taboos, 忌讳 (jìhuì) often arise from people’s fear of death, misfortune and unknown factors. It will be worth your while to search the Internet for and read up on some of the common Chinese taboos, particularly with respect to gifting.

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