One of the best ways to build your Chinese vocabulary is to learn the names of objects that you use every day (straight jacket, velvet painting of Elvis, etc.). Learning simple words that you can use regularly is part of the language learning lifestyle and a great way to make sure that what you learn will be remembered in the long term (or at least until your kids finally succeed in driving you crazy). In this series of posts, we're going to learn the names for a variety of household items by discussing each room of the house separately. This particular post will examine the living room.
First, we're going to go over our vocabulary words for this post. I know some of you will probably skip right over them and dive into the next section (miscreants!) but try to control yourselves (use excessive force if you must) because having at least a basic idea of which words we're learning will help you get more out of the rest of this post.
The following are a few simple words for things found in the living room. Try using these words often to keep from forgetting them (and because it'll confuse your kids - maybe you can drive them crazy first!). Note that the vocabulary words are numbered and that their numbers correspond to the numbers on the arrows in the picture above. You might find looking at the picture and trying to remember the Chinese words for each object a fun way to learn. However, since I like to focus on learning via inference, you'll find another way to learn words later in this post.
1. (yìfú) huà ("ee foo hwah") 一幅画 (a) picture (painting or drawing)
2. (yígè) shāfā ("ee guh shah-fah") 一个沙发 (a) sofa
3. (yìzhǎn) dēng ("ee john duhng") 一盏灯 (a) lamp
4. (yíge) dēngzhào ("dung jaow") 灯罩 (a) lampshade
5. (yìzhāng) zhuōzi ("ee jahng jwoh-dzuh") 一张桌子 (a) table
6. (yìbǎ) yǐzi ("ee bah yee-dzuh") 一把椅子 (a) chair
7. (yìtái) diànshì ("ee tie dyan-shih") 一台电视 (a) television
8. (yíkuài) xiǎo dìtǎn ("ee kwhy shaow dee-tahn") 一块小地毯 (a) rug*
*this term refers to a small rug, like a mat. To refer to "carpet" (which is what's in the picture, to be exact) the term is just "dìtǎn". The word "xiǎo" means small, so when we say"rug" we're just saying "a small carpet". There, you just got two vocab words for the price of one!
Now that you've read through the words (or skipped over them entirely - lets be honest with ourselves), I present to you a paragraph about this living room. Your job is to read through the paragraph and try to remember/infer what the words in Chinese mean. I've written them out in pinyin only, to make this easier and because I believe for the time being it's more beneficial to you that you learn to speak Chinese rather than just read characters. If you get stuck on one of the words, you have two options. You can either scroll back up to the vocab list above to see what the word means, or you can mouseover the word right there in the paragraph to get the English equivalent. Try not to do either of these if you can infer the meaning from context, but don't be afraid to look it up if you don't. Studies have shown that when learning words in second languages, looking up the meaning of a word in a dictionary helps a person to learn that word significantly better - which is the reason for this exercise. Use the vocab list above as your "dictionary" if you need to. Enjoy!
The living room in the picture above has driven many an interior decorator to his grave. What is this, the 80's? The fabric on the shāfā makes me want to poke myself in the eye just so I don't have to look at it. Perhaps turning off the dēng would make it look better? At least when you're sitting on the shāfā watching the diànshì, you don't have to look at the shāfā. In fact, then you don't have to look at that ugly huà either. It's almost as if someone closed their eyes in a room full of huà and just pointed to one, grabbed it, and designed an entire ugly room around it. Depressing. And how about that lovely moss green dìtǎn? The zhuōzi even has a glass top so you can look right through it to see the beautiful dìtǎn below! Could a person with a conscience possibly ask anyone to come visit them with a living room such as this? One redeeming factor is that each dēng has a plain, white dēngzhào. And if that isn't enough to bring you back from the brink of death-by-ugly, try slipping one of those dēngzhào right over your head. Why avert your eyes when you can cover them completely! In fact, if you sit yourself down in the red yǐzi, you won't be able to see much of the room at all. You could sit in the green yǐzi, which does look much more comfortable, but then you might catch a glimpse of that horrifying shāfā. The shock may kill you.
Did you find this exercise effective? See the English only list of vocabulary words below and see how many of the words you can recall in Chinese. Let me know how you liked this post by leaving a comment.
Don't forget to check out this week's interactive vocabulary list.
Original photo by Derek Jensen (Tysto) (Own work (My own photo)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons