Using Chinese idioms in writing

Rufous Hummingbird hovering around     Blueberry Blossoms

Here is an account of my recent encounter with a Rufous hummingbird. I have highlighted the popular four-character Chinese idioms featured in this article. It will also be good for you to look at how some of the adverbs and conjunctives are used in the sentences. are discussed in Chapters 17, 18 and 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

又是大地回春, 万象更新的时节.
Yòu shì dàdì huíchūn wànxiàng gēngxīn de shíjié.
It’s that season again when the earth springs back to life anew.

园里的蓝莓灌木开满了小巧玲珑的白花儿.
Yuán li de lánméi guànmù kāi mǎn le xiǎoqiǎolínglóng de bái huār.
The blueberry bushes in the garden are full of little white blossoms.

蜜蜂穿梭其间采集花蜜及花粉.
Mìfēng chuānsuō qíjiān cǎijí huāmì jí huāfěn.
The bees go from one floweret to another to collect nectar and pollens.

偶尔也有蜂鸟光顾,
ǒu’ěr yě yǒu fēngniǎo guānggù,
Occasionally a hummingbird visits,

但是往往一眨眼就不见了.
dànshì wǎngwǎng yīzhǎyǎn jiù bùjiànle.
but it usually disappears in a blink of the eyes.

我一直希望能够录到蜂鸟的影片,
Wǒ yīzhí xīwàng nénggòu lù dào fēngniǎo de yǐngpiàn,
I’ve always wished to be able to capture a video the hummingbird,

但是没有闲空来守株待兔.
dànshì méiyǒu xiánkòng lái shǒuzhūdàitù
but I don’t have the time to sit there and wait for the bird to appear.

那天我正在为新种的蔬菜拍照,
Nǎtiān wǒ zhèngzài wèi xīn zhòng de shūcài pāizhào,
That day, while taking pictures of the newly planted vegetables,

忽然听到蜂鸟振翅的嗡嗡声.
hūrán tīngdào fēngniǎo zhèn chì de wēngwēng shēng.
I suddenly heard the hum of rapid flapping of wings.

我赶忙切换到录影模式,
Wǒ gǎnmáng qiēhuàn dào lùyǐng móshì,
I quickly switched to the video mode,

竟然录到了小蜂鸟吸允花蜜的景象,
jìngrán lù dào le xiǎo fēngniǎo xīyǔn huāmì de jǐngxiàng,
and actually captured a scene of the little hummer sucking nectar.

令我喜出望外.
lìng xǐchūwàngwài.
I was pleasantly surprised. (This gave me unexpected joy.)

想必你们也会替我高兴能够如愿以偿.
Xiǎngbì nǐmen yě huì tì wǒ gāoxìng nénggòu rúyuànyǐcháng.
I think you will also be happy for me for having had my wish fulfilled.

大地 (dàdì) is the earth or Mother Earth.
回春 (huíchūn) means returning to spring or bringing back to life.
万象 (wànxiàng) refers to all phenomena on earth.
更新 (gēngxīn) is to renew.
花蜜 (huāmì) is nectar.
花粉 (huāfěn) means pollen.
蓝莓 (lán méi) are blueberries.
小巧玲珑 (xiǎoqiǎolínglóng) means tiny and exquisite.
灌木 (guànmù) is a shrub or a bush.
蜜蜂 (mìfēng) are honeybees or bees in general.
穿梭 (chuānsuō) is to shuttle back and forth.
其间 (qíjiān), as used here, means “among them”.
偶尔 (ǒu’ěr) means occasionally.
蜂鸟 (fēngniǎo) are hummingbirds.
光顾 (guānggù) is to patronize.
往往 (wǎngwǎng) means often or frequently.
一眨眼 (yīzhǎyǎn) means in an eyewink.
不见了 (bùjiànle) is to disappear or to be missing.
一直 (yīzhí) as an adverb means all along or all the way.
希望 (xīwàng) is to hope or to expect.
(lù) is to record or to write down.
影片 (yǐngpiàn) is a movie or video clip.
闲空 (xiánkòng ) is spare time or leisure.
守株待兔 (shǒuzhūdàitù) describes a person standing by a tree stump to wait for hares to come and dash themselves against it. It means to wait for windfalls.
那天 (nǎtiān) means that day or a certain day.
蔬菜 (shūcài) are vegetables.
拍照 (pāizhào) is to take a picture.
忽然 (hūrán) means suddenly.
切换 (qiēhuàn) is to switch to a different mode.
录影 (lù yǐng) is to record a video.
模式 (móshì) is a mode or method.
竟然 (jìngrán) is an adverb that means unexpectedly.
吸允 (xī yǔn) is to suck up.
景象 (jǐngxiàng) is a scene or a sight.
喜出望外 (xǐchūwàngwài) is a common expression that means to be overjoyed or pleasantly surprised.
想必 (xiǎngbì) means “I think, most likely…”
如愿以偿 (rúyuànyǐcháng) is a common expression for having one’s wish fulfilled.

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He happy?

“A woman wife is my sharp.”

I see you scratching your head. You know every word in this sentence, but this line simply doesn’t make sense – until you unscramble it to read: “My wife is a sharp woman.” This goes to show that, to make a meaningful statement, it’s quite important to put the words in the proper order. Shooting out the words any which way just won’t cut it.

Over the ages, each population sharing the same language has arrived at a concensus about what “sounds right”. When you are learning a new language, it is natural to want to apply the language rules with which you are familiar. This is why pidgin English was prevalent among the coolies who came over from China in the 19th century and early 20th century to earn a living. To make the statement: “He is happy.”, someone might say:

他快乐.
Tā kuàilè.

Therefore, to put it in English, he would say, “He happy.” This sounds perfectly all right to the Chinese ear.

In a similar way, if you simply superimpose English grammar onto Chinese words, your statements may become jumbled and difficult to understand. I think this is a good time to caution you against trying to translate your English statements into Chinese verbatim. Instead, please focus on the meaning you wish to get across and put the relevant Chinese words and phrases into the proper Chinese sentence patterns.

Fortunately, human minds work more or less alike, and you will be pleasantly surprised that many sentence patterns are similar in English and Chinese. Last week we learned two simple sentence patterns. To make them more concise, we will employ the names of the parts of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc. You know that the name of anyone or anything you can see or feel or think about or talk about is considered a noun. We will let the term “Noun” also represent noun phrases such as “my beautiful wife”. A word or phrase that describes a noun is an adjective. A word or phrase that modifies an adjective or a verb is an adverb. I will rewrite the first two sentence patterns as follows:

I. Noun + Adjective

她的眼睛大.
Tā de yǎnjing dà.
Her eyes are large.

Please note that the “be” verb is omitted in this Chinese sentence pattern, which is commonly used when one wishes to express one’s feeling or opinion about someone or something.

If her eyes are large and bright, you would say:

她的眼睛大又亮.
Tā de yǎnjing dà yòu liàng.
Her eyes are large and also bright.

(yòu) means “also” or “again”. It may be used singly or in a pair, such as in: 又大又亮 (yòu dà yòu liàng large and bright as well).

Listen to the song “Lift Your Veil” by clicking on the link below, and see if you can pick out the sentences that follow the above sentence pattern. This song is fully annotated in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to illustrate the use of adjectives.

Lift Your Veil (video)

Hummingbird

You may insert an adverb to qualify the description. For example, (hěn) means “very”, and (tài) means “exceedingly”.

蜂鸟很可爱.
Fēngniǎo hěn kěài.
Hummingbirds are very lovely (cute).

我的女友很漂亮.
Wǒ de nǚyǒu hěn piàoliàng.
My girlfriend is very pretty.

他太小氣了!
Tā tài xiǎoqì le!
He is too stingy!

II. Noun + (shì) + Noun

他是校长.
Tā shì xiàozhǎng.
He is the school principal.

我先生是一位老师.
Wǒ xiānsheng shì yī wèi lǎoshī.
My husband is a teacher.

我太太是个伶俐的女人.
Wǒ tàitai shì gè línglì de nǚrén.
My wife is a quick-witted woman.

This sentence pattern works the same in English as in Chinese. The noun phrases may contain optional adjectives. To show respect to teachers, we use 一位 (yī wèi) instead of 一个 (yī gè)

How would you describe yourself? Also find some nice words to describe your family and your friends. As for the people you don’t like, there are plenty of appropriate words in your dictionary for them as well.

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