8
votes
3answers
2k views

What does 民以食为天 mean?

How to translate the old saying "民以食为天"? Would that be "Food is the priority of populace"? That doesn't sound right to me, though.
9
votes
2answers
209 views

Neverending 你好 exchange, is it normal?

When should exchanges of the phrase "你好" end? I regularly see a Chinese person who greets me with "你好." If I respond with "你好" he immediately says "你好", and so on. I normally end it with "Yes, I'm ...
8
votes
2answers
464 views

How are new words added to the Chinese language?

I'm always curious to know, as the world develops and new words come into existence, how are they adopted by the Chinese language? Is there some sort of government body that decides these sort of ...
4
votes
3answers
78 views

When would 产生了 be used?

I don't really understand the meaning or usage of 产生了. Google translate gives 'had'. But it doesn't really seem to be widely-used. When would it be used, and why?
3
votes
4answers
282 views

Correct terms for a roadside gutter and gutter on a roof

What is the correct terms for both a roadside gutter and a gutter on a roof? For the sake of making me look bad, my guess would be 水沟 but I've seen that applied to a large canal so I'm not sure if it ...
2
votes
1answer
88 views

What are the uses of 什会 and from which area?

In restaurants in Australia we quite often have Chinese dishes which are combination for example Combination Satay or Combination Fried Rice. These contain several types of meat as opposed to ...
15
votes
5answers
423 views

Number two in chinese: 二 vs 两

I always knew, from my studies of Japanese, that the number two is 二 (èr). I am not sure about the actual etymology, but looking at the character, it's understandable why it represents the number "2". ...
14
votes
4answers
232 views

Is this an exception in the use of 的?

I know that, when expressing possessives, we add 的 to the usual personal pronouns, such as 我的. However, in a question in my grammar textbook I saw: 你爸爸忙吗? = Is your father busy? Why not ...
12
votes
5answers
566 views

Is any simplified character also a traditional character?

I don't mean traditional characters that weren't simplified, thus being the same in traditional and simplified. What I ask if there is any simplified character which in turn has the same form of ...
12
votes
6answers
518 views

Are children's books a good starting place for beginners?

I was wondering if Chinese children's books might be a good starting place for adult Chinese language newbies (regardless of whether it be Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, whatever), in particular for ...
9
votes
3answers
193 views

Asking “what's the pinyin/character for X?”

How do we ask someone to "translate" a character or some pinyin into the other one? The expressions I'm referring to are: What's the pinyin for this/that (character)/... ? What's the ...
7
votes
1answer
214 views

What are the different kinds of poems in Chinese?

In the question "Are there poems in Chinese that rhyme?", a debate started about what is considered a poem in Chinese. The texts I presented — 《三字經》 (Three Character Classic), 《百家姓》 (The Hundred ...
7
votes
3answers
242 views

“Actually” as a sentence-starter of speech filler

When casually speaking English I use the word "actually" a lot at the beginning of a sentance, or as part of the flow of my speech. e.g. Actually, next semester doesn't start for a month. ...
3
votes
2answers
142 views

Why can't 了 be used to complement 到?

I have been taught that the sentence 我刚到了 (wǒ gāng dào le) is not correct because 了 cannot be used as a complement of 到. Is this right? If so, why?
1
vote
1answer
126 views

Where can I find a Chinese corpus concordance?

Compleat Lexical Tutor has a valuable tool here1 for searching for English words in a corpus and displaying them in sample sentences. This is useful for checking the usage of a word. Where can I find ...
7
votes
3answers
294 views

Why does Chinese lack some level of abstraction in some idioms? (e.g. 兄弟姐妹)

Example: in Chinese, you can't* speak of siblings in a general term, and in turn you have to enumerate all 4 combinations of sex and age: 兄弟姐妹 ( older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger ...
9
votes
2answers
150 views

Using 一样 instead of 同一 for “the same school”

In my study software, I recently had the following sentence: 我想我们会上一样的学校. The context (a girl speaking to another girl who had just moved into the neighborhood) made it seem like the correct ...
0
votes
2answers
133 views

What does this calligraphy by 張照 say?

I can make out bits of this calligraphy, but not enough to look up the poem. The first line (and the poet, which I assume is the last two characters) should suffice for the purposes of using a search ...
4
votes
2answers
315 views

What are the rules of writing a 对联 (chinese couplet)?

I have looked at the wikipedia article "Couplet (Chinese Poetry)", but I think it poses more questions than answers. So a 对联 (duì lián) is a "Chinese couplet". it is composed of two lines each line ...
4
votes
3answers
213 views

What is the correct orientation of “ㄧ” in zhuyin fuhao?

In zhuyin fuhao (bopomofo), "ㄧ" is equal to "i" or "yi" in Hanyu pinyin. I have noticed, when displayed on my computer, even with very complete fonts, I see a vertical line (similar to "|"), but when ...
5
votes
2answers
283 views

How can I improve the speed of my spoken Chinese?

I'm currently trying to learn '听妈妈的话' on SingChineseSongs, and I'm having trouble keeping up with the fast parts. I also have trouble trying to speak terribly fast in Mandarin anyway. Does anyone ...
11
votes
6answers
371 views

Do all schools in China teach in Standard Chinese (普通话)?

When I went to China, it was apparent that many (sometimes most) people still spoke their local dialects instead of Standard Chinese/Putonghua (also known as "Mandarin" in English). I was told that ...
6
votes
1answer
175 views

Meaning of 这么多好吃

I want to get the correct meaning of this sentence: 我恨不得一下子把这么多好吃的都吃完。 I understand this sentence as "I wish to eat up all those delicious things, all at once". I don't fully understand the ...
6
votes
4answers
505 views

Where can I find a downloadable database of English to Chinese words?

CC-CEDICT is a Chinese to English dictionary, available for use online or for download (as a data file here: http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=cc-cedict). What similar projects provide an ...
4
votes
2answers
189 views

Where can I find sorted word lists used by native students?

I would like to find a sorted list of vocabulary that is studied by native students in primary (elementary) and secondary (middle) school in China, arranged by grade level. Is there any official place ...
9
votes
3answers
175 views

Which regions use 计算机 for computer?

Where is 计算机 used for "computer", and where does it mean "calculator". In regions where it means "calculator" what is the word for "supercomputer" (assuming that 超级计算机 is not used there)?
4
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the character with the greatest number of strokes?

I have seen an old and very rarely used character that consisted of four traditional dragons (龍). As I remember it meant "talkative." That makes a total of 64 strokes, are there any other characters ...
7
votes
2answers
255 views

Why does 有机 as in 有机食品 mean organic?

有 and 机 are some of the first characters we learn in Chinese, but only recently did I find out that they mean "organic" when put together. Can anyone explain why this is?
18
votes
6answers
846 views

How polite is too polite?

I've noticed in China that people don't tend to use as many 'polite' words as we do in western languages, like 'please' or 'thank you'. I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining about this; I ...
3
votes
2answers
191 views

Mandarin equivalent of “stir crazy”

Is there a concise way to express "stir crazy" in Mandarin, or is a long explanation needed?
21
votes
3answers
645 views

What is the difference between 作 and 做?

作 and 做 are both translated as "to do" or "to make"; how can I tell when I should use one or the other?
4
votes
5answers
254 views

Why do Chinese “extend” the last word when speaking?

I've hear on many occasions that Chinese prolong the last word in a sentence, for example: ni hao ma ? becomes ni hao maaaaa ? (I'm not sure that's clear enough but can't think of a better ...
6
votes
3answers
287 views

How are the terms for “male/female” and “man/woman” divided exactly?

I know that daughter in Chinese is 女儿, and son is 儿子. A little side-question: Why isn't "son" 男儿? My main question is this one though: apart from son and daughter stated above, what are the ...
9
votes
1answer
278 views

Expressing the location: 哪里 or 哪儿?

Which one of these expressions is the best one? Or are they both good, but for different situations? For example: 你住在哪里? VS 你住在哪儿? = Where do you live? Nĭ zhù zài nă lĭ? ——— Nĭ zhù zài năr? ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

When and why is right to left writing used?

I have encountered characters written horizontally right to left on signs (at the top of a gate) and on vehicles. When is this used and why? Was this more common in the past? Are the individuals ...
6
votes
4answers
203 views

What's the role of 好了 in 你叫我(name)好了?

In this sentence 你叫我马丁好了。 what's the role of 好了? I understand this sentence as "You can call me 马丁."
6
votes
4answers
79 views

What methods are available for looking up a character?

Some dictionaries provide a radical lookup for finding characters. Are there other systems available besides radical lookup for finding the meaning of a word when one only has the character?
9
votes
2answers
2k views

What software can detect the parts of speech of written text?

What software or online tools can detect the parts of speech in a piece of written text (e.g. to predict if a word is a verb, adjective, etc.)?
8
votes
1answer
81 views

Are there any style guides for Chinese?

There are many different style guides for English, such as The Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Are there similar publications available for Chinese? ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

How do we wish someone to get better?

When we know somebody is sick, how can we wish them to get better? What are the best ways and also the standard ones to do that? I'd like you to differentiate among some things, if and when ...
10
votes
2answers
234 views

Why is it possible to replace 都 with 也 in 什么都没有?

I know 也 only as "also", but I see it now and then used in ways difficult to understand, especially in some negative statements. Why is this so? Does 也 also have some meaning not mentioned in ...
6
votes
5answers
249 views

Why do I see 我 for I, but is pronounced WAH

I'm corrected to pronounce WAH instead of "wǒ." Is it the same and I just hear it wrong in my head? Or is there a difference in dialect?
2
votes
1answer
74 views

Is 搏杀 used in jest in this sentence?

In December, I read this in a social network post: 今年剩下一个星期了,继续努力搏杀! In English slang, one might say "killing it" to mean performing well. Is this use of 搏杀 figurative, literal, or humorous?
6
votes
3answers
315 views

Writing “Please Recycle” in Mandarin

How can one write "Please Recycle" in the context of an office paper room? I have tried: 请回收利用 but my friend says this is only for recycling batteries.
6
votes
4answers
1k views

How to convert from hanyu pinyin to IPA?

Where can I find a table showing the relation between Hanyu pinyin spelling and IPA for all phonemes in Mandarin?
4
votes
3answers
338 views

What board games would facilitate speaking practice?

Table top (board games) games provide good opportunities for authentic and simulated communication with a group. I think such an activity would be ideal for language practice, if one had opportunities ...
6
votes
2answers
419 views

Site for reading the same news article in English and Chinese (简体中文)

Previously I used to regularly go to a news site that had articles in English that allowed you to immediately switch to Chinese for the same article. It also had good information on the Chinese side ...
4
votes
1answer
212 views

What does the classical construction X 何由 Y mean?

I almost never see this construction in classical prose. (In fact, I'll venture I've never seen it.) However, it's in two of my favorite poems. In this one, it's from the poem "晨詣超師院讀禪經" by 柳宗元: ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

When are “《” and “ 》” and other brackets used?

In some texts, I have seen the following brackets: Carrot brackets: 《, 》,〈, and 〉. Square brackets: 【, 】,〖, and 〗. C-brackets: 〔 and 〕. L-brackets: 「, 」, 『, and 』. Some questions: What are the ...
9
votes
1answer
421 views

How do native speakers structure their essays?

When analyzing Chinese speeches or essays, I often have difficulty understanding how their the authors organized their ideas. In North America, for example, a common template for writing an essay is ...

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