Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chinese for E-mail Addicts

Having checked my e-mail for the fifth (ok, tenth) time today, I thought it might be a great day for us to learn some simple Chinese terms related to e-mail.  Some of these words may be applicable to the regular (archaic?) mail as well, so if you're among the masses who think e-mail is for young  good-for-nothing whipper-snappers who "spend too much time listening to that darned rock 'n roll" - this post is also for you.

Let's begin with the word e-mail, which is "diànzǐ yóujiàn" (电子邮件).  If you want to say "an e-mail" (as in "He considered using an e-mail (yīge diànzǐ yóujiàn) to break up with his girlfriend, but decided a text would be classier."), add "yīge", which essentially means "an", but is, in fact, the word for "one" (yī) followed by the measure word "ge".  If you're scratching your head and feeling a bit scared at the mention of the term "measure word", don't go cry into your pillow - check out my post Measure Words Part One: Introduction for a quick explanation as to what measure words are and why they're nothing to bother your therapist about.

If you just want to say mail (see, I also care about my elders),  it's simply "xìnjiàn" (信件), which translates more specifically to "letters".  You can use this word to say things like, " I was excited to see that I got some mail (xìnjiàn), but then I realized I'd been called for jury duty."  Pity.

Next, you might like to know the word for "to send".  To send is "jì" (寄) if you're sending something by post, and "fā" (发) if you're sending it via e-mail.  So you can send (jì) a perfume scented letter to that cute guy who works in accounting, but he might send (fā) you an e-mail to tell you he's not interested.

Now let's get fancy and figure out to whom we're sending these things.  In Chinese, if you want to say "I sent him letters/a letter", you would literally say, "I sent for him letters/a letter" which is " jì gěi xìnjiàn/yīfēng xìn." "yīfēng xìn" means a letter.  You'll notice that xìn is part of the word for "mail" or "letters".  "Yīfēng" is another way to say "an", where, once again, "yī" means "one" but this time the proper measure word to use in conjunction with "one" is "fēng" (封).  "Fēng" is the measure word to be used with letters (or telegrams if you're not hip to the "new technologies"...).

If you want to send an e-mail instead, you can say  "I sent him an e-mail" which is literally said "I for him sent an e-mail" which translates to " fā gěi ge diànzǐ yóujiàn."  Hopefully he'll appreciate all the dizzying head work you went through to learn how to say you sent (fā) him an e-mail (yīge diànzǐ yóujiàn).  "Gěi" is the word for "for" or "to" and you'll recall the words "" and "" from our short series entitled Ordering Food at a Chinese Restaurant.   If you're starting to foam at the mouth, take heart, because our last word is simple and doesn't involve measure words, grammar, or a need for straight jackets.

A final word that you might find useful will come in especially handy if you type out that long e-mail to your guy friend to tell him that you really think the two of you were meant to be together and you hope he likes you back because you've secretly been in love with him for years.  In fact, you've built somewhat of a shrine to him in your closet complete with pictures, everything you own that he's ever touched, and that tissue he sneezed in once when he was riding in your car.

If you type out your train wreck of an e-mail and are lucky enough to catch yourself in the act of "stupid" before you hit the "send" button, hopefully you'll make the better choice and decide to delete (shānchú 删除) it instead.  Then sit back, relax, and thank your lucky stars that you had a moment of clarity.  You might also want to give your therapist a call because what's going on in your closet isn't normal.  At least you made one good decision today though - right?  Crisis averted!  And you know what?  It couldn't hurt to check your e-mail five or six times in the next twenty minutes - just in case your guy pal wants to send you an e-mail of his own.  You never know, and, of course, you wouldn't want to miss that!

Don't forget to head over to our new group on Memrise to find great mnemonics to help you quickly learn the Chinese characters for today's vocabulary words.  In case you missed it, my last post talked about how this Chinese language blog just got more awesome thanks to our new word lists on Memrise which will undoubtedly make your experience with learning Chinese (especially Chinese characters) nothing short of spectacular.  Don't miss it!

Did you enjoy this blog post?  Then you might also enjoy How to Get Sick in Chinese.

1.  yī ("ee") 一 one
One (yī) bowl of ice cream is never enough.

2.  ge ("guh") 个 measure word

3.  diànzǐ yóujiàn ("dee-anne-dzuh yo-jee-en") 电子邮件 e-mail
If I send this e-mail (diànzǐ yóujiàn) to my boss, can I resist adding what I really think of him?

4.  xìnjiàn ("seen-jee-en") 信件 mail/letters
Some people still send paper with writing on it to each other via the US Postal service.  These pieces of paper are called "letters" (xìnjiàn).

5.  fēng ("fung") 封 measure word for letter

6.  xìn ("seen") 信 letter
I sent a letter (xìn) to my niece, but it took her a while to open it because she'd never seen one before.

7.  gěi ("gay") 给 for;to; to give
I gave (gěi) him a slab of meat for (gěi) the dog, but he ate it himself.

8.  shānchú ("shawn-choo") 删除 to delete
I had a nice blog post in reserve a while back, but I deleted (shānchú) it by accident.  However, I then realized it wasn't up to my standards anyway - so I celebrated.

Don't forget to check out this week's interactive vocabulary list.

For more help with Mandarin pronunciation, click here.    

Photo by artslave via Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons.

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