Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Backseat Driving for Students of Chinese
New vocabulary words are in bold. Old vocabulary words are linked to the lesson wherein they were introduced.
It's happened to all of us. You're driving down the interstate at full speed with your friend at the wheel when you suddenly realize, "Oh gosh, he (tā) drives like an old blind woman!" After the initial panic wears off, you come to your senses and decide that there's only one thing to do - pray and make use of your "back seat driver's license." You thank God that the front seat of the car was taken, but you feel twinges of sympathy for the mutual acquaintance who yelled "Shotgun!" and now finds himself hyperventilating as he (tā) searches his seat like a crazy person, hoping to find a couple extra seat belts hiding somewhere.
Meanwhile, your friend has accelerated. As you zoom by other cars at warp speed, your friend nearly side swipes a bus full of orphans. "Um, going a bit fast (kuài 快), aren't we?" you suggest uncomfortably as you adjust your glasses in a way that implies that maybe you just can't see how very well he's driving. Your friend slaps you on the back with the finesse of a warthog and laughs at your "joke" while cutting off a minivan.
"I (wǒ) really think you're going too (tài) fast (kuài)." you say, as you feel the car begin to levitate. You wedge your toes under the seat in front of you because that's what people do when their friends drive like maniacs. Your friend smiles again and assures you that he's been driving for years and has only had five speeding tickets to date. You're not impressed. In fact, you're downright scared (hàipà). Just as you begin to wonder if his car has a flux capacitor, your friend exits the freeway and you breathe a sigh of relief as you come to a stop at half a stop sign covered in graffiti. A pigeon locks eyes with you from atop the sign and laughs. You look to your left (zuǒ) and notice a less than upscale, but not altogether frightening downtown shopping area. There are actually a great deal of pigeons loitering there, enough perhaps to feed all of the laid off Detroit auto workers, but the shops in general look friendly and clean aside from all the decorative contributions from the previously mentioned birds. Your friend turns right (yòu) and begins to drive the wrong way down a one way "street" that is, in fact, an alley. A sparkling clean Mercedes appears and makes its way down the alley, coming towards you at a slow (màn) crawl. Unlike your friend, its driver is clearly aware that two cars being driven straight at each other will eventually meet, and not in the "how pleasant to make your acquaintance" fashion.
The mutual acquaintance has now given up seat belts entirely and has curled himself into a ball on the floor. He begins to sing show tunes.
"Maybe we should turn around." you suggest. "I (wǒ) think we were supposed to go left (zuǒ) at that last intersection." Your friend floors it. "Why bother!" he (tā) replies with gusto. "We're almost there!" The Mercedes comes to a sudden stop and quickly backs into a side street to get out of the way. You sink down into your seat hoping they won't catch a look at you as you go flying by in your four-wheeled torpedo.
Your friend adjusts his helmet. You begin to wonder why you didn't think to wear a helmet.
Finally your friend hangs a right (yòu), nearly taking out a mail box, and the car comes to a screeching halt on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. "Hope you don't mind" he (tā) says as you peel yourself off the back of your seat, "I need to make a quick stop to take care of a couple parking tickets!"
1. zuǒ ("dzwoah") 左 left
On the left (zuǒ) you'll find a painting of dogs playing monopoly.
2. yòu ("yoh") 右 right
On the right (yòu) you'll find a painting of cats winning the lotto.
3. kuài ("kwai") 快 fast
He was so fast (kuài) he got there before he left.
4. màn ("mahn") 慢 slow
He was slow (màn), like like a turtle out for a leisurely stroll.
5. tài (like "tie") 太 too
The toast was too (tài) burned to eat, so we used it to insulate the garage.
6. hàipà ("high-pah") 害 怕 scared
I'm so scared (hàipà) that my goose bumps are shaking.
Don't forget to check out this week's interactive vocabulary list.
For more help with Mandarin pronunciation, click here.
Photo: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons