5 simple steps to Critical Thinking

When it comes to education, there are two fundamental skills that we want to teach children: reading and maths. This is the same regardless of culture or language. A child who is armed with these two skills can think, even critically.

As we have been focusing on teaching our children to read, to comprehend and to expand their vocabulary, we must also be aware that the end goal is for them to become critical thinkers rather than reading machines. This is especially important in this age of information explosion where fake news crops up everywhere, all the time.

Thanks to the American philosopher John Dewey, who coined the term “critical thinking” in 1910, and later on the Maltese physician/philosopher Edward de Bono, who popularized the term “lateral thinking”, we now recognize the importance of such thinking and some ways we can train ourselves.

From the perspective of education, learning to thinking critically is in tune with a child’s natural development. Children are born curious about their world and environment. Their minds are full of imagination. They ceaselessly ask “why?” and “what if?”. It is therefore easy for us to simply go with the flow and encourage them to do what they can already do well. We only need to show them the skills to channel their minds efficiently. When done properly, children gain a profound sense of happiness and satisfaction from within, as their natural needs are satisfied. On a grander scale, when all of our children are critical thinkers, our world will run with much more efficiency, peace and harmony.

The 5 simple steps

When we teach our children to start thinking critically, we can start with a simple 5-step approach:

  1. When we are faced with a situation (e.g. reading a story), we ask ourselves a question.
  2. We come up with some hypothesis, so we know where we can go look for answers.
  3. We go and look for some answers (flip through the story book, look up other references).
  4. We compare the various answers that we found, and decide which one is most likely to be true (based on our knowledge).
  5. We draw a conclusion.

Two examples

Children learn from examples. Take the time to show them how other people use this kind of thinking to come up with solutions. There are two great examples in Treasure Box stories to help you get started.

司馬光 Si-Ma Guang
When you read this story to your children, break down Si-Ma’s thought process into the five steps outlined above:

  1. The situation was that someone fell into the water barrel and was about to drown. The question was: how we can get him out of the water?
  2. There were 2 hypotheses: (1) a grown-up would be able to help pull him out; (2) if there was no water in the barrel, that child would be saved
  3. There were 2 possible solutions: they could either go and look for a grown-up, or break the barrel and let the water out.
  4. Compare the two solutions: By the time a grown-up comes, it might be too late. On the other hand, a rock can easily break the barrel and water will flow out immediately.
  5. Conclusion: Si-Ma broke the barrel with a rock.

曹沖稱象 Cao Chong
When you read this story to your children, break down Cao’s thought process into the five steps outlined above:

  1. The situation was to find out how much the elephant weighs, but the elephant was too big for any existing scales.
  2. There were 2 hypotheses: (1) smaller parts of the elephant would add up to the total weight of the elephant; (2) the weight and volume of an object are in a constant relation.
  3. Possible solutions: (1) cut up the elephant and weigh the parts; (2) use a boat as a giant scale, small rocks as weights, and calculate the weight of the elephant (note: solution 1 was from our imagination as we have no way of knowing what other ideas they might have come up with.)
  4. Compare the two solutions: (1) the elephant would be dead if we cut it up; (2) from Cao’s previous knowledge, this is mathematically sound.
  5. Conclusion: Cao used the boat and rocks.

Asking questions

As seen from the above examples, critical thinking starts with  asking questions . Too often, we focus on asking children questions, for them to look for the correct answers. Being able to ask questions is an important skill to learn. We should help children from a very young age to form the habit of asking questions. Start from asking any questions, and gradually progress to asking relevant questions which eventually leads to asking critical questions.

Below are 2 activities to encourage children to ask questions.

Activity 1 – What is the question to this answer?

Start by gathering a list of answers. You could write down these answers in small sheets of paper and fold them up, put them in a basket or box, and ask your child to draw out one at a time. This would turn the practice into a game that children enjoy playing.

You could use some of the ideas below to get started:

Answer Possible questions
The answer is 2. What is 1 + 1?
What is 102-100?
I have a toothache. Why are you going to the dentist?
Why are you looking upset?
8 o’clock. What time is it?
What time do you have breakfast?
What time will Jane come?
He found the bucket of gold under the tree! Where did he find the gold?
What did he find under the tree?
What happened to him?
Tom wishes to go to the moon. Why is Tom studying the moon?
Why does Tom wish he could fly?
What is Tom’s biggest wish?
Her name is Jane Doe. What is her name?
Who is that lady standing there?
Who is your teacher?

Don’t schedule a weekly practice session and be too serious about it. Do it casually, as a game, or as a pass time while you are in the waiting line or stuck in traffic. You could try to fit in 3 such A&Q each day, and play it anytime, anywhere.

Be creative and come up with lots of funny answers. Then encourage your child to ask you as many silly questions as they can think of. The goal is to let them be comfortable with asking various questions, and free up their mind.

Activity 2 – Ask a question relating to a story

With this activity, children learn to ask questions within a context. We have chosen one story from each level of Treasure Box and suggested some example questions. When your child doesn’t know how to start asking a first question, you could use one of the samples questions as an illustration. Once the ice is broken, they will come up with many more questions. Do not judge or criticize. Their questions might be silly or “illogical”, that’s OK.

Answer Possible question
樂樂兔(Beginning Reader) – page 1 Q1. Why is Bunny sad?
Q2. Where are his parents going?
Q3. Why isn’t Bunny at school?
小魚的家 (Budding Reader) Q1. How did the yellow fish end up on the other side of the river?
Q2. Did the yellow fish’s family invite the black fish for dinner?
Q3. What is the colour of the yellow fish’s home?
冬冬打蟲 (Building Reader) Q1. Why didn’t the 冬冬s build a door to block out the bugs?
Q2. Were the bugs noisy, or did they sting?
Q3. Were there male and female 冬冬s?
張良 (Confident Reader) Q1. What subjects did 張良 study?
Q2. Have clocks been invented yet?
Q3. What did 張良 have for breakfast?
快樂之本 (Fluent Reader) Q1. What vegetables did the villagers grow?
Q2. Did the cow and the rabbit have names?
Q3. Where did the monster go after he left the village?

Most of the questions will not have a definite answer. This is a fact of life we all have to learn to be comfortable with.

The above two activities not only stimulate thinking, they provide good opportunity for communication as well. They also serve as great oral practice if you encourage your children to use Chinese as much as they can during these discussions.


我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

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If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

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七大家族 (部首遊戲) 7 Families (Bushou game)

(English follows Chinese)

中文,無論是哪種方言,都有很多同音字。這難免就會帶來誤寫、誤解的問題。

一種常見的情況是當我們碰上名字,不管是人的姓名、商店名、街道或大廈的名字,因為沒有上文下理可循,我們就必須問清楚:到底是哪個字?

要是英文或其他字母語言,一般都會要求:「請您拼出來。」

那中文,要是你要告訴人家「hú」字,你要怎樣說清楚到底是哪個字呢?

這時,漢字的部首和部件就派上用場了。我們會說:古月「胡」,或是米字旁的「糊」、三點水的「湖」…這樣一說,很容易就能懂了。

當你一時想不起一個字該怎麼寫的時候,部首和部件也可以成為一種提醒。例如

你問:yì 思的 yì 要怎麼寫?
朋友:哦… 「立」字下面一個「曰」,再下面是一個「心」。

你就會知道:是「意」。

你再問:kū 字怎麼寫呢?
朋友:並排兩個「口」,下面一個「犬」字。 (哭)

所以,熟練漢字部件有很大的實用價值。
以下介紹的遊戲「七大家族」,能加深小朋友對漢字部首的掌握喔。


There are many homophonic characters in Chinese, regardless of dialect. This can cause confusion or miswriting, especially when it concerns names, be it the name of a person, a shop, a street or a building. In this case, there is no context for us to guess which character would be the right one, and it is important that we know exactly how it is written.

In English, or any other language that uses an alphabet, it would be easy to ask for the spelling of a word.

In Chinese, if you were told it’s the character / hú/, how do you ask exactly which /hú/ it is?

This is the time when bushou and bujian (common part) come in handy. Often, you would be told that it is 古月「胡」, or the one with the 米 bushou, or the one with the 三點水 bushou. This usually is enough for instant clarification.

Bujian can also be helpful when you have forgotten how a character should be written and you need to ask for help. For example:

YOU: How do you write /yì/ as in /yì si/ (meaning)?
Friend: Oh, first you write a 立, then a 曰 beneath, then a 心 at the bottom.

You will know it’s written as 意.

Another example:

YOU: How do you write /kū/ (to cry)?
Friend: Two 口 side by side, then a 犬 underneath them. (哭)

As you can see, the knowledge of bushou and bujian is of practical importance.
Below is an excellent card game for children to practice their knowledge of bushou.

七大家族 Seven Families

七大家族原本是法國的一個傳統卡牌遊戲。我們將它改編成配合思展方程式課程的部首遊戲。
7 Families is a traditional French card game. We have adapted it to the Sage Formula course to help children to practice bushou.

 道具 WHAT YOU NEED    準備 HOW TO PREPARE  
  • 選定7個不同部首,每個部首從每級取出一個字,共35張字卡。(七個部首家族,每個家族有5個顏色成員。) Choose 7 different bushous. For each bushou, pick out 5 character cards, one from each level. You should have a total of 35 cards. (7 Bushou families, each has 5 members which are the 5 colours of the levles.)
  • 如要防止孩子利用卡背的顏色標記或拼音出貓,可以用和紙貼之類將它們先遮掩起來。You might want to cover up the colour markings or pinyin at the back of the cards, such as with washi tape, to prevent cheating.
  • 下表為你提供了12個部首的參考。The table below shows you an example, with 12 bushous.

部首家族
啟蒙級
- 藍色
萌芽級
- 綠色
躍進級
- 橙色
信心級
- 桃色
實力級
- 紅色
塊 (块) 壞 (坏) 場 (场)
媽 (妈)
 忄 
 心 
樹 (树) 樣 (样) 橋 (桥)
廿 (繁體)
葉 (叶*) 藍 (蓝)
月 (簡體)
背*

* 「葉」的簡體是 [叶],不屬 [艸 (艹)] 部。「背」的繁體屬 [肉] 部,不屬 [月] 部。這兩個部首要視乎繁/簡體才能玩這遊戲。
*  心部 有兩種寫法:在左旁的是「豎心旁」,在底下的是「心字底」。

 玩法 HOW TO PLAY 
  1. 每人派7張卡。餘下的卡牌疊成一份,字面向下,放在中間。
  2. 第一個孩子 (甲) 向任何另一個孩子取卡。、甲必須說明要哪個部首的哪個顏色的卡,例如:「我要提手旁家族的藍色卡。」
  3. (a) 要是被問的孩子有那張卡,就把卡交出給甲收藏;(b) 要是被問的孩子沒有那張卡,甲就從中間的卡堆中取最上面的一張卡。如果甲取到的卡正是他要索取的那張,甲必須喊「碰!」讓大家知道。
  4. (a) 不管甲是從別人處得到或是從中間的卡堆中抽到他所要的卡,他都可以繼續向另一人以同樣方式要求再取一張卡;(b) 如果甲未能得到他要的那張卡,就輪到下一個孩子以相同方式取他需要的卡。
  5. 當有人集齊了同一個部首的5張顏色卡,就完成了一個部首家族。他要把那個部首家族的5張卡公開排在自己面前。所有人繼續遊戲。
  6. 當所有的卡都組成了部首家族,遊戲就結束了。
  7. 組成最多部首家族的孩子勝出。
  1. Each person gets 7 cards. Put the remaining cards in a stack, face (character side) down, in the centre.
  2. Player 1 asks any other player for 1 card, specifying the colour and the bushou Family, e.g.: "I want the blue card from the X Family".
  3. (a) If the player they asked has the card, s/he will give it to Player 1. (b) If the other player does not have the card, Player 1 will draw one card from the centre stack. Player 1 should call out “Got it” if the drawn card is exactly the one s/he asks for.
  4. (a) If Player 1 gets the card they asked for, whether it is from a player or a stack, they can play again and ask for another card. (b) If they do not, it is the next player's turn to ask for a card.
  5. A Family is formed when a player collects all 5 coloured cards of the same bushou. The player lays the completed Family down in front of them. All players continue to play.
  6. The game ends when all the cards have been used to form all of the Families.
  7. The one with most Families wins.
 玩法變化 ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO PLAY  
  1. 年紀小的孩子,或是只學到某一級的孩子,每個部首的選字酌量減少。例如:只用頭2級的字 (14張) / 頭3級的字 (21張)…
  2. 孩子年紀小、人數少、時間不足…,也可以減少部首的數目。
  3. 可以請每個孩子將自己組成的部首家族中的字逐一讀出來,作為練習。
  1. If your children are very young or are only up to the first few levels, reduce the number of cards for each bushou, and limit to only the levels they have learnt.
  2. Reduce the number of bushou families if your children are very young, or if there are only 2-3 players, or if there is not enough time.
  3. You could ask each child to read out the characters in the bushou families they have formed.

熱身遊戲 ACTIVITIES TO WARM UP

我們特意為剛開始學習的小朋友設計了以下的兩款熱身遊戲。
We have designed 2 warm up activities for children who are just starting out.

(熱身一)部首大風吹 (age 3+ 歲, 一人以上遊戲 single or multiple players)

 道具 WHAT YOU NEED    準備 HOW TO PREPARE  
  • 選 2-7 張屬同一部首的字卡 + 1 張不同部首的字卡。Choose 2-7 characters of a same bushou, plus 1 character of a different bushou.
 玩法 HOW TO PLAY 
  1. 將字卡(最少2張相同部首+1張不同部首)都排在孩子面前。
  2. 請孩子將不同部首的那張取走。
  1. Lay the study cards (at least 2 of the same bushou + 1 of a different bushou) in front of your child.
  2. Ask your child to pick out the one with a different bushou.
 玩法變化 ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO PLAY  
  1. 年幼的孩子開始時減少字卡的數目。
  2. 年長或已掌握字數多的孩子可以增加字卡數目
  3. 年長或能力強的孩子,可以選幾個不同部首的字,每個部首有2個以上的字,再加一個單獨屬於一個部首的字 (例如:好/妹/她 3張 女部, 你/住 2張人部, 紅/給/綠 3張糸部, 然後只選一個 [河] 字屬水部),請孩子將不能與別的字成組的那張選出來。
  1. If your child is very young or is just starting out, use fewer cards.
  2. If your child is older and knows more characters, use more cards.
  3. If your child is older and knows more characters, you can also include 2+ cards of different bushous, plus 1 card of a bushou on its own (e.g. 好/妹/她 which are 女 bushou, 你/住 which are 人 bushou, 紅/給/綠 which are 糸 bushou, then 河 which is 水 bushou but is on its own here). Ask your child to pick out the odd one.

(熱身二)跟領袖 Follow the leader (age 3+ 歲, 2人以上遊戲 multiple players)

 道具 WHAT YOU NEED    準備 HOW TO PREPARE  
  • 選幾張字卡作為部首卡。(例如:木/口/女/手/人/水/心。) 洗均勻由你拿着。Choose several bushou cards (e.g. 木/口/女/手/人/水/心). Shuffle them and keep them with you.
  • 按你所選的部首卡,每個部首選幾張字卡。(總數量可以是人數的5倍)。Following the bushou of what you have chosen, pick out several cards for each bushou. The total number of cards can be 5 times of the number of children.
 玩法 HOW TO PLAY 
  1. 由你翻出一張部首卡,孩子在字卡堆中選出一個同部首的字。
  2. 要是孩子選對,那張字卡屬他。
  3. 你翻出另一張部首卡,由下一名孩子繼續。
  4. 要是與你翻出的部首相同的字已被取光,你再翻另一個部首讓孩子找。
  5. 大家輪流直到取光所有字卡。
  6. 最後最多字卡在手的孩子勝出。
  1. You deal 1 bushou card. The first child finds a character with the same bushou from the chosen cards.
  2. The child keeps the card if it is correct.
  3. You deal another bushou card. The next child finds a character with the same bushou.
  4. If there is no more of the character of the same bushou, you can deal another bushou card ask the child to look again.
  5. The children take turns until all the cards have been taken.
  6. The one with the most cards wins
 玩法變化 ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO PLAY  
  1. 年幼的孩子開始時減少字卡的數目。
  2. 年長或已掌握字數多的孩子可以增加字卡數目
  1. If your child is very young or is just starting out, use fewer cards.
  2. If your child is older and knows more characters, use more cards.
我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

We discuss Chinese language and culture related topics on a regular basis.
If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

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Writing capitals in Chinese 中文也有大寫

一二三⋯ Chinese numbers appear to be extremely easy to tamper with. It takes only a few simple strokes to change 一千 to 三千, or 一萬 to 十萬!

Indeed, there have been numerous frauds throughout Chinese history where officials manipulated reports and accounts by adding strokes to the numbers.

There is also the famous (though unproven) anecdote about the power struggle which changed the line of succession at the beginning of Qing dynasty. The fourth prince 雍正(Yong Zhen) of the emperor 康熙 (Kang Xi) allegedly changed the posthumous edict and thus became the new emperor himself, instead of the 14th prince, the original successor, by simply changing 十 to 于. (康熙 had supposedly written 傳位四太子 which 雍正 allegedly changed to 傳位四太子)

Knowing the vulnerability of the numeric characters, how do Chinese maintain the simple way of writing numbers so that our everyday life is not affected, yet at the same time prevent easily committed crimes, such as changing the amounts on cheques?

As it turns out, there are “capital letters” for Chinese numeric characters. Let’s have a look below.

Number

Everyday writing Capital letter

More explanations

0

Chinese zero can usually be written as 〇. The year 2020 is written as 二〇二〇.

Note that, although 零 can be written as 〇 in numbers, it is not the case in some words or expressions, such as 零零碎碎 (fragmentary) or 零食 (snacks).

1

壹 is often used in proper names (such as the magazine 壹週刊). Its bushou is 豆 at the bottom.

2

It’s bushou is 貝, with a 二 right above it.

3

參(叄)

This is the same as in the word 參加 (“to participate”). In classical literature one of the meanings of 參 is "three". Gradually the character 叄 was created, specifically to mean three.

4

Besides the meaning of “four”, this character is also used in 食肆 (restaurants), or 放肆 (impudent).

5

This character is made up of the bushou 人 and the character 五. In the ancient military system, a team of five soldiers is known as a 伍. The idiom 五人為伍 means just that. “A team” is 一支隊伍 in Chinese.

伍 is also a surname. One of the most famous politicians around 600 BCE is called 伍子胥 /wǔ zi xū/.

6

This character also means “the land” 陸地, or “continuously” 陸續.

陸 is also a surname. Two famous historical scholars are 陸遊, a poet of Tang dynasty, and 陸羽 who penned the famous Classic of Tea.

7

The bushou of this character is 木. It is simply the capital writing of seven.

8

With a bushou of 扌(手), this character also means to separate something into two halves by hand.

9

Note that the bushou of 玖 is 玉 (not 王). It is the name of a jade-like gemstone which is greyish black.

10

Apart from meaning “ten”, it also means “to pick up” 拾起, “to pack” 收拾.

Hundred

In the ancient military system, 佰 is the name of the commanding officer of 100 people. It also refers to an armed force of 100 people.

Thousand

Quite similar to 佰,仟is the name of the commanding officer of 1000 people in the ancient military system. It also refers to an armed force of 1000 people.

萬, or 万 in simplified Chinese, is ten thousand. It is thus often used to signify plenty and many. It also means “very” or “absolutely”, such as in the idiom 萬不得已 or 萬萬不可.

The use of 整 or 正

In formal occasions, such as writing a cheque, the word 整(or the simplified version 正) is added to the very end of an amount. This prevents anyone else to add to the amount, much like the use of ONLY in the English way.

Here is an example of how ¥12,345.00 is written:

壹萬貳仟叄佰肆拾伍圓整

instead of 一萬二千三百四十五元

 


我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

We discuss Chinese language and culture related topics on a regular basis.
If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

我想提問 I have a request

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動物俗語

我們學習詞彙時,往往會發現當兩個字拼在一起時,很可能各自原來的意義都會消失,而形成另一個全新的意義。比如「客氣」與「客人」和「氣」沒有很大的關連。

在我們日常的慣用語、俗語、成語之中,這種情況就更普遍了。翻看一些我們經常掛在口邊的俗語,裏頭還藏着不少動物。這些帶動物的俗語,我們平常說起來、聽起來都活靈活現,可是往往會難倒不少外國人,連我們自己的小孩都要經過長時期的使用才會慢慢地體會到其中的含意呢。

以下我們一起來看看十個帶有動物的常用俗語。

兩個字的俗語

吹牛 [動] 胡扯、炫耀,bullsh*t

吹牛和黃牛、水牛有關係嗎?應該沒有吧。
要是我們說某人在吹牛,那他說的話不一定就是錯的、假的,但我們都不會太認真地把它當一回事兒。

色狼 [名] 非禮、侵犯女性的男子

聽了這個名詞,狼一族會不會叫冤呢?這「色」字怎麼來的?原來在古文中,「色」有「美女」的意思,像「重色輕友」。而狼會偷雞摸狗,大家都得提防呢。

走狗 [名] 替人跑腿做(壞)事的人

我們之前的一篇文章中曾經提過古時候中國人心目中對狗隻是貶斥的:不少含貶意的字亦是犬字部的,例如狠、猥、狹、猖...。這「走狗」的比喻是很形象化的描述。

三個字的俗語

拍蒼蠅 [形] 無所事事,沒有顧客和生意

蒼蠅在炎夏悶熱的天氣,嗡嗡地讓人頭煩;坐在櫃台等待客人光顧的店主卻沒有生意,難免就會心煩。這兩個煩加在一起,卻又做不到甚麼,看來無所事事、只能去打蒼蠅的光景,大家都能懂了吧。

炒魷魚 [動] 解僱

這是南方廣東一帶的俗語。
魷魚,一般會先在背上切出細細的格子花,一下鍋炒起來就會捲起。這和捲席子、收拾包袱很形像。當市道不景、公司裁員的時候,大家都會避免點這道菜呢 – 不好兆頭嘛。

四個字的俗語

井底之蛙 [名] 沒有見過世面的人

這個成語來自一個故事:一向只住在井底的一隻青蛙,就會以為世界就只有像井口那麼大,世上發生的事情也就只有它能看得見的那麼丁點。

九牛二虎 [形] 費了很大的努力

牛和老虎是從來不可能會合作的。但是傳統以來,說起重、大、有力氣,牛是家畜之冠,而老虎就是萬獸之王。(大象和獅子當然也很重大有力,但在古代的中國不常見。) 試想像九頭牛和兩頭老虎合起來的力氣吧。
可是有沒有想過為甚麼不說二牛九虎呢?難道是平仄音律的原因?

雞同鴨講 [形] 兩個人各說各的(語言上、思想上),不能溝通

雞和鴨都是家禽,經常會在一起,按道理很能相互了解、溝通的。偏偏牠們就是說不明啊。
有沒有感覺很有共鳴呢?

五個字的俗語

劏雞用牛刀 [動] 用過大的代價去做一件小事

傳統,家家戶戶會自己在家殺雞宰牛,這兩件工作分別有各自用的刀。用特大的牛刀去殺小雞,不但有點過份,還可能會反而更辦不好吧?

扮豬吃老虎 [動] 裝着傻佔別人便宜

這俗語南方人比較常用,用來罵一些假好人,心中卻另有盤算的人;或是裝可憐討人同情,其實卻在伺機獲利的人。


以上的十個常用俗語,都用了人們經常能接觸到的動物,或是有代表性、容易起到誇張效果的動物。這十個俗語當中,其中牛出現過三次,雞和老虎出現過兩次。你看過以後,對中國傳統的農業社會生活有甚麼新的認識嗎?

同時,這十個帶動物的俗語,都帶有貶意呢。難道說我們罵人的時候偏向婉轉,取向利用比喻去譏諷?還是只有利用牲畜來罵人,才能繪形繪聲地、徹底地表達我們的心聲呢?啊哈~


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從喝開水說起 Boiled water, anyone?

(English version follows Chinese)

外國人習慣扭開水龍頭就拿水喝,因為在歐美,水龍頭的水是安全可以飲用的。在中國就不行:生水不能喝,必須要先燒開。

外國人感到中國人喝開水很特別。

的確,我們一般會喝暖的或是熱的開水。可是,其實我們說的開水是指「已經燒開過、能安全飲用的水」。開水,也有冷開水、溫/暖開水、熱開水、剛剛燒開的燙開水…

對外國人來說,可以喝、可以用的都是water。Hot water 是用來洗澡或是特殊清潔等需要的。只有在很有需要的情況下 (泡茶/咖啡) 才會用上boiling water.

簡單的「開水」一個名詞就包含了我們文化的不少的獨特之處。語文,的確是每個文化和民族生活思想的產品。

中文的精準

當歐美的朋友向你介紹:這位是我的brother (或sister / uncle / aunt / grandmother / grandfather / cousin…) 時,你心中很自然地會同時生出很多疑問吧:

  • Brother / sister:是哥哥還是弟弟?姐姐還是妹妹呢?
  • Grandfather / Grandmother:祖父母?外祖父母?

說到 uncle、aunt、cousin時,我們中心的疑問就更多了。對於這些人際關係,中國人向來非常的精準。一個稱謂,已能清楚說明了兩個人之間的血緣和親疏關係。

但我們不能就說中國人比歐美人、或是中文比英文精準。

英文的精準

下面我們來舉幾個例子。

就以日常生活來說,英文take a shower和take a bath絕對是兩回事。當外國人聽到中國人一句「他在洗澡」,他們心中也馬上起了沒有解釋清楚的疑問。

又比如我們說「有沒有筆,讓我記一記?」他們肯定會追問:甚麼樣的筆?因為英文會說明到底是pen (原珠筆) / pencil (鉛筆) / crayon (蠟筆)…。 要說「作為書寫工具的統稱」的筆,就只能說 writing instrument – 平常裏是不會這樣說的。在一些工作的說明裏,英文會列明準備 “paper and pen, pencil, crayon…”,而中文往往會攏統地說「準備紙筆」。

當我們說「坐車去吧」,他們也會感到含糊,非得弄清楚:car / taxi / bus / train / bus / tram…?對他們來說,這些車之間完全不一樣,沒弄清楚以前他們不能行動。當然,我們說的「車」指的是「有別於飛機、船之類的交通工具,也不是走路或騎車」的意思。可是在英語日常對話中,沒有人會說 Let’s take a vehicle。同樣地,中文說騎車,不必說明是自行車或是機車;而英文就一定不會含糊。以下是一種經常會出現的情況:

中國人:你坐車來嗎?
外國人:我沒有車子。我坐巴士 (公車 / 打的)來。
中國人:對,我就是那個意思。
外國人 (心想):你哪裏是那個意思啊⋯

真正的雙語/多語學習

生活中最平常的事、最顯淺的字,往往最能反映民族的特色。這裏面只有差異,沒有優劣。

當我們教導孩子雙/多語的時候,盡量為他們講解這些文化和生活習慣之間的差異,讓他們從小就明白這些不同的文化特色,成為真正的雙語/多語使用者。

Europeans and Americans drink cold tap water because in Europe and in America, tap water is safe to drink. It is not the case in China. We have to bring the water to boil first to ensure safety.

This Chinese habit of drinking 開水 (boiled water) may bewilder many foreigners.

It certainly is a Chinese habit to drink warm or hot boiled water. However, it is worth knowing that the word 開水 refers to water that has once been boiled and is thus safe for drinking. 開水 can be cold, warm, hot, or boiling hot.

Water, just one simple word, is for both drinking and washing to Europeans and Americans. Hot water is used for shower or baths, or some special cleaning purposes. Boiling water is for brewing tea or coffee.

A word as simple as 開水embodies a lot of cultural uniqueness. Language is indeed the product of each culture, and the lifestyle and thoughts of its people.

When Chinese is being precise

When someone introduces another person and says “this is my brother (or sister / uncle / aunt / grandmother / grandfather / cousin…), a series of questions would immediately be raised in the head of a Chinese:

  • Brother / sister: is s/he elder or younger than you?
  • Grandfather / grandmother: paternal? Or maternal?

When it comes to uncle, aunt or cousins, it raises even more questions. There is this natural urge in a Chinese to find out more about the relationship. In the Chinese language, the bloodline and relationship between two people are clearly defined by each name.

However, it is not to say that Chinese people or language are more precise than English.

When English is being precise

For some everyday activities, such as taking a show or a bath, a clear distinction is made in English with the change of one word. In Chinese, when people say 「他在洗澡」(he’s washing himself), the lack of precision about how the person is washing themself could be a little confusing.

When a Chinese says “May I borrow a 筆”, it refers to any writing instrument. In English, people tend to precise whether it is a pen, pencil, crayon…etc. You would never say “May I borrow a writing instrument?”. When it comes to giving instructions and preparing the list of materials needed, the one word in Chinese 筆 may seem ambiguous. You would most likely be precise and include everything - pen, pencil, crayon...

Similarly, a Chinese would suggest to “take a 車” when you need to travel far. You would precise to take a car / taxi / bus / train / bus / tram… A 車 refers to any kind of vehicle that runs on the road, as opposed to a ship, a plane, or walking. In English, you would never hear people suggest “Let’s take a vehicle”. While you would say to ride a motorcycle or a bicycle, in Chinese 騎車 tends to be less precise. The scenario below could arise everyday:

Chinese: Did you come in a car?
Non-Chinese: No, I don’t own a car. I came by bus (or taxi).
Chinese: That’s what I meant.
Non-Chinese (thinking): Perhaps, but that’s not what you said…

True bi- or multi-lingualism

The words in a language that can best illustrate the characteristics of its people are often the ones that are most common and the simplest. It is important for us to recognise that while cultures and languages differ from each other, no one is more superior nor inferior.

When we bring up children to be bilingual or multilingual, it would benefit them for us to explain the differences between the cultures and practices to them. It’s only by understanding these cultural characteristics they will become true bi- or multilinguals.

 


我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

We discuss Chinese language and culture related topics on a regular basis.
If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

我想提問 I have a request

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詞彙學習 The etymology and usage of [打]

The basic meaning of 打

「打」/ dǎ/ 是一個十分常用的字。這是一個形聲字,由於起初的字義是用手擊打,因此屬於手部。說起來,和其他很多象形字相比,它的歷史比較短,文字學家普遍認為是東漢 (公元25-220年) 中末期開始形成、使用的,只有不足2000年的歷史。

隨着時間和社會的變化,「打」的字義和用法、讀音也自然經歷了變化,不但從原來的擊打意思延伸出提起、除去、玩耍等動詞的意思,還受到英語的影響多了量詞的功能:一打 /dá/= 1 dozen (12個)。


「打」/ dǎ/ is a very frequently used character. It is made up of the bushou (radical) part on the left, and the sound part on its right. Its original meaning is “to hit”, and thus it has the hand (手) bushou. Compared to many other ideographic characters it has a relatively shorter history of nearly 2000 years. Scholars generally agreed that it was created around the middle to the end period of East Han Dynasty (25-220 CE).

The meaning, usage and pronunciation of 打 has undergone some changes since the word originally appeared. On top of “to hit”, it now also means to fetch, to cancel, to play, and many more depending what other character(s) it is paired up with. Most of these words are verbs. Furthermore, from the influence of English, 打 is also used as a classifier, as in  一打 /dá/ = 1 dozen [note the change in intonation].

其他組詞 Vocabulary study


躍進級 第二冊 第8課 Building Reader, Book 2, Lesson 8

「打」字組成的詞語、成語、諺語、常用語很多。單就基礎漢字500課程中每級可以組成的詞語就不少。以下是一個孩子可以理解的、粗略的列表:


打 can team up with many other characters to form words, idioms and expressions. In every level of the Basic Chinese 500, there are many such words. Below is a non-exhaustive list of these words which are more related to children:

 啟蒙級 BEGINNING READER 

打人 to hit someone
打下 to shoot down
打水 to fetch water (from a well, a river)
打鳥 to shoot a bird
打手 a hired thug
打起 (精神/訊號) to pull (oneself) together / to put up a signal
打開 to open
打天下 to seize power
打草 to make a draft
打家 (劫舍) to rob

 萌芽級 BUDDING READER 

打中 to hit a target
打風 To experience a typhoon
打氣 to cheer
打魚 to fish
打比方 to give an analogy
打火 to light a fire
(打火機) a lighter [「機」是信心級的生字 / 機 is taught in Confident Level]
打住 to stop, to halt
打點 to get ready, to put things in order
打坐 to meditate
打聽 to ask around, to enquire
打耳光 to slap
打不過 To be unable to beat
打從 ever since

 躍進級 BEGINNING READER 

打工 to have a (temporary or casual) work
打更 to sound the night watch
打毛衣 to knit a jumper (sweater)
打發 to send someone to do something, to send someone away
打洞 to punch a hole
打動 to move emotionally
打嘴巴 to slap

 信心級 BEGINNING READER 

打電話 to make a phone call
打包 to wrap / to take away (food)
打傘 to hold up an umbrella
打掉 to destroy / to have an abortion
打字 to type
打字機 a typewriter
打分 to grade or mark
打哈哈 to laugh insincerely
打傷 to injure

 實力級 BEGINNING READER 

打球 to play ball
打遊戲機 to play video game
打掃 to clean up
打燈 to brighten (photo effect) / Cantonese: to light, to signal when driving
打滾 to roll about
打結 to tie a knot
打破 to break, to smash
打圓場 to smooth things over

 成語 idioms 

打成一片 to integrate
打落水狗 to kick somebody when they are down
打發時間 to kill time
打成平手 to draw (an equal match)
抱打不平 to fight for justice

Summary

[打] :繁/簡寫法一樣。繁體屬手部,簡體屬扌部,部外筆畫有2畫,全個字共5畫。
於躍進級第二冊第8課教授。

打 is written the same in both traditional and simplified Chinese. Its bushou is 手部in traditional Chinese, and扌部 in simplified Chinese. It is written in a total of 5 strokes.
打 is taught in Building Reader, Book 2, Lesson 8.


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This is interesting!

How would you say “This is interesting!” in Chinese?
「這個很有趣!」… No, no!

In most cases, we would rather say:

「(這)有意思!」

意思 /yì si/ is a very frequently used word. The most basic meaning of 意思 is “meaning”. Such as:

  • 你這是甚麼意思? What do you mean by that?
  • 這是甚麼意思? What does this mean?

The word 意思 can also be used in many other situations. Some common examples might surprise you.

Excuse me! (Please let me pass.) 不好意思。(請讓一讓。)
Sorry (that I’m busy right now. / that I’m late.) 不好意思 (我現在沒空。 / 我來晚了。)
He fancies her! 他對她有意思。
He is not interested in her. 他對她沒有意思。
Are you shameless! 你還好意思!
It’s so embarrassing! 太不好意思了!
I want to go to the beach this weekend. What do you think? 這個周未我想去海灘。你的意思呢?
This is for you. I hope you like it. (When you give someone a present.) 小小意思,不成敬意。
If you insist (accepting a present or an offer). 那我就不好意思了。
This is so boring / pointless / such a waste of effort! 真沒意思!
That’s OK. (when someone thanked you or apologise to you) 小意思。
This is nothing! (when boasting one’s own skills) 小意思!
This is very meaningful. 這事很有意思。
This is thought provoking. (a speech, a writing, etc) (你的話 / 你說得 / 文章寫得) 很有意思。
It’s about to rain. 天有要下雨的意思。

When two 意思 are put together

疊詞 (die-ci, replication – when a same character is used twice in a word) is a distinctive characteristic of Chinese. The word 意思 can also be used as a die-ci. The expression 意思意思 can mean “just a little something” “a gesture”. For example:

  • There is no need to give something expensive. It’s the thought that counts. 不必送貴重的東西,意思意思就好。
  • It’s just a formality. 就意思意思。

In summary, the word 意思 carries the following meanings:

意思
  1. meaning (noun)
  2. an opinion, a wish (noun)
  3. the thought or good wishes carried by a present (noun)
  4. to express a thought or an emotion (verb)
  5. an indication, a tendency (noun)
  6. interest, fun (noun)

How  would you interpret each of the 意思 below?

Below is the adaptation of a very popular joke, reflecting the multiple meanings of 意思, and subtlety in Chinese style. Are you able to understand what each of the 意思 mean in the dialogue below?

A staff presents a gift to the CEO.

CEO: 你這是甚麼意思?
Staff: 沒甚麼意思。就意思意思。
CEO: 你這就不夠意思了。
Staff: 小意思,小意思。
CEO: 你這人真有意思。
Staff: 其實也沒有別的意思。
CEO: 那我就不好意思了。
Staff: 是我不好意思。

Here is a loose translation of the conversation:

CEO: What do you mean by this?
Staff: Nothing. Just a little something.
CEO: How very “cunning” of you.
Staff: It’s really nothing. Nothing at all.
CEO: You are very interesting.
Staff: I really don’t have any other intentions.
CEO: Then I’ll say “Thank you”.
Staff: The pleasure is all mine.


我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

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漢語中的比較詞 Let’s compare

對英語文法稍有認識的人,都會知道英語的 comparative 和 superlative 的詞彙和法則 (一般來說是形容詞/副詞加 er 或 est,或在前面加上 more 或 the most)。

中文有這類比較詞嗎?

當然有。

最顯淺、直接的方法,可以和英語文法對照的,是在形容詞/副詞前面加上「更」或「最」。

When we make comparisons in English, we use comparatives and superlatives.
The equivalents in Chinese is to add 更 or 最 respectively, such as the examples below.

  • 哥哥跳得高,學長跳得高,體育老師跳得高。
  • 面包好吃,餃子好吃,蔥油餅好吃!
  • 走路的時候要小心,走梯級的時候要小心,天雨過馬路的時候要小心!

英語的 superlative 有時會用完全不同的字來表達。例如,雖然 the best 是 good 的最高層次,但 wonderful 或 excellent 就明顯地更優越了。

中文也一樣:真正能表達各種不同程度的方法並不在於單純地加上「更」或「最」,而是選用完全不同的詞。下面的例子就能說明準確的用詞怎樣能確切地表達意思,同時令文章更生動傳神。

Apart from the use of 更 or 最, there are many other adjectives and adverbs in Chinese that express different levels or intensity of a description. This is quite similar to the use of "wonderful" or "excellent" other than "the best" in English.
Below are some examples.

基本詞 升級 厲害
快樂 歡天喜地 歡騰
哭 (淚汪汪) 淚如雨下 呼天搶地
美麗 嬌艷 國色天香
進步 循序漸進 突飛猛進
幫忙 成全 雪中送炭
努力 全力 極力
退步 惡化 一落千丈
比不上 黯然失色 望塵莫及
一樣 半斤八兩 棋逢敵手
相對立 格格不入 水火不容
困難 好不容易 艱巨
難過 悲哀 傷心欲絕
稱讚 嘉許 拍案叫絕
取笑 嘲笑 恥笑
批評 指責 評擊
藥到病除 妙手回春 起死回生
一眼關七 一目十行 一覽無遺

從詞到句 On the sentence level

要比較數量、程度等,我們還可以用比較句去表達。當兩件事物不一樣時,我們通常會用「比」字來表達。

Apart from words, there are also comparative sentence structures in Chinese. In most cases, the word 比 is used.

  • 哥哥我大兩歲。
  • 昨天的雨下得今天大。

用「比」字的時候,要是兩種相比的事物都已達到一定的水平,可以加用「更」、「再」、「還」突出情況來。

When the two objects or actions being compared are of a similar level, we use 更 / 再 / 還 to emphasise the superiority of one of them.

單用「比」 「比」+ 「更」/「再」/「還」
紅色的比藍色的好看。
(藍色的不好看。)
紅色的比藍色的好看。
(藍色的也好看。)
我吃得比你多。
(你吃得不多。)
我吃得比你多。
(你也吃很多。)
沒有人比他來得晚了。
(他可能來得不晚,可是其他人都比他早。)
沒有人比他來得晚了。
(他來得很晚,而且最晚。)

上面的是「增值」的例子,強調前面的事物的程度比後面的事物要高、要強。如果我們要從相反角度去說,就會用「沒有」/「不如」。一般我們還會在形容詞/副詞前面加上「那麼」。

While 比 is used in affirmative sentences, 沒有 / 不如 is used in negative statements. In these cases, the word 那麼 is often used in conjunction.

  • 藍色的沒有紅色的那麼好看。/  藍色的不如紅色的那麼好看。
  • 沒有我吃得那麼多。/  你不如我吃得那麼多。
  • 其他人沒有他來得那麼晚。/  其他人不如他來得那麼晚。

以上我們探討了漢語中利用字詞和句式兩個層面的比較方法。

上面列出的比較詞詞例雖然只是漢語詞彙庫的冰山一角,但已能讓我們感受到詞彙的力量:豐富的詞彙量能讓我們貼切地表達不同程度的描述,同時增加文章的色彩。對現時在求學階段的孩子來說,增加詞彙量不但有助他們的智力發展,更能幫助他們充分地表達自己人思想和意見。對我們成年人來說,豐富的詞彙量也同樣有利於職場競爭力和人際關係。要增加詞彙量,最好方法是閱讀、閱讀、再閱讀優質的文章,另外少不了的是多寫、多練。

當然,有研究指出,「詞彙量大的學生並不一定能寫出高質量的作文」。是否能寫出漂亮的文章還取決於寫作策略和其他相關的能力,而思展部落格的文章一直不斷從多方面探討多寫多練和如何養成這些能力的方法。歡迎大家多參閱我們的各類文章。


我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

We discuss Chinese language and culture related topics on a regular basis.
If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

我想提問 I have a request

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Games to learn the character 去

Last week we discussed the various meanings of 去 and how it is used. This week, we will use some activities to help children get familiar with this word.

本週遊戲 ACTIVITIES OF THE WEEK

These games should be played after your child has learnt the character 去 from the Basic Chinese 500 book (Beginning Reader, book 2, lesson 11).

I want to... (age 3+, single or multiple players)

 WHAT YOU NEED 道具 
  • Study Cards : 去 (from Beginning Reader) + 2 more study cards (the 2 cards can be random but should both be from Beginning Reader) (or make your own word cards)
  • Several images of locations, such as shops, beach, park, restrooms, restaurants, etc.
  • Several images of activities, such as washing hands, having meals, getting on a train, shopping, reading, etc.
 HOW TO PLAY 玩法 
  1. Lay the 3 study cards in front of your child. Ask your child to point out 去. (If they get it wrong, simply point out the correct one to them)
  2. Lay the location and the activity images in front of the child.
  3. Tell your child that you want to go to a place, or to do something (e.g. to the park: 我要去公園。/ to go fishing: 我要去釣魚。)
  4. Ask your child to put the card 去 on top of the correct image card. If they have done correctly, they can keep the image card.
  5. Mix up the 3 study cards again, shuffle their places and lay them out in front of your child.
  6. Repeat the game, until all the images have been used up.
 ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO PLAY 玩法變化 
  1. If you child is very young or is just starting out, focus only on the locations first, and then the activities.
  2. You could also ask your child to choose where they want to go, by asking them: 你要去哪裏? or what they want to do: 你要去做甚麼?
  3. Encourage them to say out the sentence of where they are going or what they are going to do.
  4. Multiple children can take turns to play this game together.

Pushing 去 around (age 3+)

This game should be played after the first game above. You could use the same set of image cards as above.

 WHAT THE CHILD LEARNS 學到甚麼 
  • When speaking, 去 can also be placed after an action, but not after a location, as demonstrated below.
    我去買東西。 =我買東西去。
    我去書店。 (but NOT *我書店去。)
 WHAT YOU NEED 道具 
  • Study Cards : 去 and我. You could also add the optional 要 (all of these are from Beginning Reader)
  • Several images of locations, such as shops, beach, park, restrooms, restaurants, etc.
  • Several images of activities, such as washing hands, having meals, getting on a train, shopping, reading, etc.
 HOW TO PLAY 玩法 
  1. Lay out the cards 我(要)去. Ask your child to read out these characters.
  2. Pick a location or an action and place it after 去.
  3. Ask your child to say the whole sentence, including the image or the action.
  4. Place the 去 card after the image card and ask your child to say the whole sentence according to the new order. Does it sound right?
  5. Repeat the game until all the image cards have run out.
  6. After playing enough times, your child will have a feeling of the rule of where 去 should be placed.
  7. You could use new image cards from time to time, to add interest and keep your child engaged.

Reading practice (age 4.5+)

Now let's put what we have learnt together and do some reading. The sentences below focus on the 8 words below, 4 of them with 去 at the end, and 4 at the beginning of each word:

過去 / 回去/ 下去 / 離去

去年 / 去向 / 去掉 / 去皮

Children who are studying Building Reader or above should be able to read all of the sentences below on their own.

4 words with 去 at the end

  1. 過去我不會唱歌,現在會了。
  2. 天黑了,公園裏的小朋友都回去了。
  3. 小貓從樹上跳下去追老鼠。
  4. 我看着火車帶着老師,慢慢地離去了。

Simplified Chinese:

  1. 过去我不会唱歌,现在会了。
  2. 天黑了,公园里的小朋友都回去了。
  3. 小猫从树上跳下去追老鼠。
  4. 我看着火车带着老师,慢慢地离去了。

4 words with 去 at the beginning

  1. 今年我長得比去年高了。
  2. 小鳥飛得很快,一下子就不知去向了。
  3. 「太」字去掉一點,就變成「大」字了。
  4. 你吃梨的時候會去皮嗎?

Simplified Chinese:

  1. 今年我长得比去年高了。
  2. 小鸟飞得很快,一下子就不知去向了。
  3. 「太」字去掉一点,就变成「大」字了。
  4. 你吃梨的时候会去皮吗?

We would love to hear your comments and see pictures of your kids doing the activities. Make sure you join our Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group and share with us!

TIP OF THE WEEK 老編心得

Add variety to promote learning.
Children learn in different ways. They don’t only learn through visual, or audio, or a single way. Rather, each channel creates a different imprint in the brain and together they form the child’s overall knowledge. When we engage children in various activities to learn one concept, those experiences enhance each other and leave a much deeper impression. Let children touch, move, listen, read, watch… and enriched learning will happen.

我們會經常為大家探討漢字和語文的課題。
要是你有特別的相關課題希望我們探討,歡迎您告訴我們。

We discuss Chinese language and culture related topics on a regular basis.
If you would like us to discuss certain topics about Chinese, please let us know.

我想提問 I have a request

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去 – more than the opposite of 來

In a previous post, we looked at the character 來. In this post, we will take a look at its opposite: 去.

ancient writing

The ancient writing of 去 is a person on top of a cave (his home), meaning someone leaving where he is living (the house, or the homeland). The shape evolved and become the present day 去.

Han dynasty writing

The radical of 去 is 厶, which is counted as 2 strokes. 去 has a total of 5 strokes.

Basic meaning of 去

The most basic meaning of 去 is “to, to go”.

去 can be a one word sentence on its own: 「去!」which is giving an order for someone to go (away, forward, …).
Some common uses of 去 are:

  • 去 + place >> 我去學校。 (I go to school.)
  • 去 + action >> 我去買東西。(I go shopping.)

* all of the examples quoted in this post are characters taught in the Sage Formula curriculum, unless otherwise specified.


Examples of words containing 去

As with many other characters, 去 can combine with other characters to form new words. Some of these words have very little to do with its original meanings. In general, it signifies the removal or reduction of something. It can be a verb, or an adverb. Below are some examples:

去 as a verb:

  • 去掉 – to remove, to eliminate
  • 去世 – to pass away
  • 去皮 – to peel
  • 失去 – to lose
  • 抺去 – to erase
  • 除去 – to eliminate
  • 離去 – to leave
  • 一去不回 – gone forever

去 as an adverb:

  • 去年 – last year
  • 去向 – whereabouts
  • 去路 – outlet, the path one is following
  • 比下去 – to be superior to
  • 不知去向 – gone missing

過去 and 下去 are two very commonly used words. We will take a closer look at these two below.

過去

There are 3 distinct meanings and usages of this word.

Meaning 1:

"in the past".

Meaning 2:

It can be used together with other verbs to show the direction of the action, such as:

    • 過去 - to go over
    • 走過去 - to walk over
    • 跑過去 - to run over
    • 看過去 - to look over
    • 打過去 - to hit over
    • 踢過去 - to kick over
    • … etc
Meaning 3:

"Passable". Take a look at the examples below:

    • 說得過去 - acceptable (of an excuse or explanation)
    • 說不過去 - inexcusable
    • 過得去 - not too bad
    • 過不去 - to make it difficult for someone, unable to make it through

Pay attention to the use of 不 and 得 in the second pair of examples, as they are not opposites.

下去

While this word can simply mean “to go down”, it also means to carry on doing something, depending on the verb it pairs with, such as:

  • 說下去  to continue to tell
  • 看下去  to continue to watch
  • 聽下去  to continue to listen
  • 寫下去  to continue to write
  • 讀下去  to continue to read
  • 做下去  to continue to do

In the following situations, the words can have either meaning, to show direction or to show continuity, depending on the context:

  • 走下去
  • 爬下去
  • 吃下去

去 and 來

In general, 去 and 來 are considered opposites. They tell of the different location of the speaker in relation to the object, much like “come” and “go”, or “here” and “there”.

上去 go up / 上來 come up
下去 go down / 下來 come down
出去 / 出來
回去 / 回來
帶去 / 帶來
進去 / 進來
送去 / 送來
過去 / 過來

去 and 來 can be used in the same word (or idiom). The most straightforward meaning of this kind of words is to show direction of movements. Let’s look at some examples:

  • 跑來跑去 to run about
  • 飛來飛去 to fly about

Many other action words that involve movements that cause a change in location can be used in the same fashion, such as:

  • 踢 (to kick)
  • 轉 (to turn)
  • 走 (to walk)

In some cases where the verb do not involve movements in location, it gives a sense of back and forth, or in many directions:

說來說去 – all the talks on a subject
看來看去 – examining something from various points
想來想去 – to give all considerations on something
推來推去 – to push and pull others (being rude), everybody trying to evade responsibility and push it to others
眉來眼去 – to exchange flirting looks

It can also be used as an adjective, such as 直來直去, describing someone being very direct and straightforward.

An adjective worth learning is the idiom 死去活來. This idiom gives a very vivid picture when used with the following verbs:

得死去活來 – to be madly in love
得死去活來 – to cry one’s heart out
得死去活來 – to be in excruciating pain
得死去活來 – to be boiling mad
Some exceptional cases

In some cases (such as with the verbs 看 /聽 /吃 /穿), the meaning doesn’t change whether you use 去 or 來:

看上去 / 看起來 – it appears to be
聽上去 / 聽起來 – it sounds like
吃上去 / 吃起來 – when one tastes it
穿上去 / 穿起來 – when one wears it

去 is taught in Book 2 of Beginning Reader, one of the very first words that your child learns. As they learn more characters, they start to learn about different combinations of the characters to build new words.
The best way to expand their vocabulary is to build upon what they have already learnt.
In our coming post, we will share with you some games and activities that you can do at home to expand your child's vocabulary based on 去.

Stay tuned.

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