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In my understanding 讲礼貌 translates as 'be polite' and 讲卫生 is something like 'be clean', but how should I explain the 讲 to a new speaker? I take this as a set phrase, but is there a way to translate the 讲 in these phrases separately?

Wiktionary only provides the following meanings:

  • explain
  • discuss
  • talk

I don't think this fits in with either 讲礼貌 or 讲卫生, so should a new meaning be added to the above list and what should that be?

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the question is very interesting,cause I have speaked Chinese for twenty years and never notice this. – Winnie Nov 22 '12 at 6:55
I'd say it is most close to "practice" in English. Based on context, the meaning will have to vary. – Xephon Feb 13 '14 at 14:30

In this context 讲 is short for 讲究 which means to pay particular attention to; to be particular about.

So you can also say 讲究礼貌 and 讲究卫生.

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As you can see here. The third meaning is what you want. It can be translated into:

  1. Focus on one aspect/pay attention to sth, and try to make it. e.g 讲卫生
  2. strive for e.g 讲速度
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Sorry, I cant' agree with you. In both case, translation to talk(third) does not express clearly the meaning. Moreover, 讲 in both examples you gave are different in implied meaning. When translating to English, it is clearer that the first one intends to mean "practice hygiene" and the second is "strive for speed" – Xephon Feb 13 '14 at 14:27

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