Model Mandarin: February 2015

0514_Model mandarinBEAR IN MIND

Remember how to speak by saying things you shouldn’t.

Throughout China, there are plenty of regional variants of Chinese New Year customs. In some, it is considered inauspicious to get a haircut before the second day of the lunar year (That’s February 20 this year), especially for the guys. Keeping the longer hair symbolizes two things, respect for the past and protection for uncles from the mother’s side. In Mandarin, both old, and maternal uncle, are pronounced, “jiù.” It’s best know your family.

Father’s elder brother,
伯伯 – bóbo
his wife:
伯娘 – bóniang

Father’s younger brother,
叔叔 – shūshu
his wife:
婶婶 – shěnshen

Father’s sister,
姑姑 – gūgu
her husband:
姑父 – gūfu

Mother’s brother,
舅舅 – jiùjiu
his wife:
舅妈 – jiùmā

Mother ‘s sister,
姨妈 – yímā
her husband:
姨父 – yífù

Cousins from father’s elder brother:
堂哥 – táng gē (older boy) 堂弟 – táng dì (younger boy) 堂姐 – tángjiě (older girl) 堂妹 – tángmèi (younger girl)

The other cousins:
表哥 – biǎo gē (older boy) 表弟 – biǎo dì (younger boy) 表姐 – biǎo jiě (older girl) 表妹 – biǎo mèi (younger girl)


A supplement for grammar practice

Small talk around this time of year usually involves two things, last year and this one. For the upcoming, memorize a few greetings to speak about the past and future.

nǐ qùnián guò de zěn yàng?
你 去年 过 得 怎 样?
Your last year, how about it?

qùnián de shēngyì rú hé?
去年 的 生意 如 何?
Last year’s business, how was it?

If looking back isn’t your thing, here are some sentences to help you:

nǐ jīnnián dǎsuàn zuò diǎn shénme?
你 今年 打算 做 点 什么?
Your this year’s plan is to do what?

nǐ jīnnián yǒu shénme shēngyì jìhuà?
你 今年 有 什么 生意 计划?
Your this year, what’s the business plan?

Remember these sentences are all greetings, so you may not get an answer and you don’t need to answer in detail, as well.


Mnemonic devices that work

The radical宀, pronounced mián, originally symbolized the roof of a house or a cover, meaning to protect or to keep within. It always sits on top of its characters.

jiā 家 – home, n.
Tip: The lower part (豕) means pig, because even if it is as dirty as a pigpen, it is still home sweet home.

ān 安 – safe, adj.
Tip: The lower part (女) means woman, it shows that when a man has a house with a woman, life is stable.


Conversation starters for Guangdongers

dai6 gat1 lei6 si6 – It’s a “big lucky red envelope.” When you hear someone say bad or unlucky things. Counter with this expression, as if using the Western expression, “Knock on wood.” It should cancel out the negative witchcraft. (Rise slightly on the dai, drop hard on the gat, and go back up a bit for the last two.)