筷子兄弟 – 小苹果 Little Apple by the Chopstick Bros (English, 汉字 & pinyin lyrics)

This song has been so inescapable that I finally broke down and translated the lyrics. Our kids come home from preschool singing it, dolls that friends gave our kids sing it, we hear it in grannies’ ringtones, malls, motorbikes, those wretched looped advertisements that stores blast from speakers on the sidewalks, and of course public dance exercise groups (including this record-breaking 20,000-member dance group). Video below from YouTube. If you’re in China without a VPN, see it here.

Song: Little Apple
歌曲:小苹果 gēqǔ: xiǎopíngguǒ
Performed by: Chopsticks Bro.
演唱:筷子兄弟 yǎnchàng: kuàizi xiōngdì
Lyrics & Music: Wang Taili
作词/作曲:王太利 zuòcí/zuòqǔ: Wáng Tàilì

I planted a seed
我种下一颗种子 / wǒ zhòngxià yīkē zhǒngzi
It finally sprouted fruit
终于长出了果实 / zhōngyú zhǎngchū le guǒshí
Today is a great day
今天是个伟大日子 / jīntiān shì ge wěidà rìzi
Pluck down a star and give it to you
摘下星星送给你 / zhāixià xīngxīng sònggěi nǐ
Haul down moonlight and give it to you
拽下月亮送给你 / yèxià yuèliang sònggěi nǐ
Make the sun every day rise for you
让太阳每天为你升起 / ràng tàiyáng měi tiān wèi nǐ shēngqǐ
Become a candle and light myself
变成蜡烛燃烧自己/ biànchéng làzhú ránshāo zìjǐ
just to illuminate you
只为照亮你 / zhǐwèi zhàoliàng nǐ
Take my everything and offer it to you
把我一切都献给你 / bǎ wǒ yīqiè dōu xiàngěi nǐ
just so long as you’re happy
只要你欢喜 / zhǐyào nǐ huānxǐ
You’ve made my every tomorrow have meaning
你让我每个明天都变得有意义 / nǐ ràng wǒ měi ge míngtiān dōu biànde yǒuyì
Although life is short I’ll love you forever
生命虽短爱你永远 / shēngmìng suī duǎn ài nǐ yǒngyuǎn
Never leaving never forsaking
不离不弃 / bùlí bùqì

You’re my little, little apple
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 / nǐ shì wǒde xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
Loving you more is never too much
怎么爱你都不嫌多 / zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xiánduō
Red little face warms my heart
红红的小脸儿温暖我的心窝 / hónghóngde xiǎo liǎn wēnnuǎn wǒde xīnwō
Lights my life on fire fire fire fire fire
点亮我生命的火火火火火 / diǎnliàng wǒ shēngmìngde huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ
You’re my little, little apple
你是我的小呀小苹果儿 / nǐ shì wǒde xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
Like the most beautiful cloud on the horizon
就像天边最美的云朵 / jiùxiàng tiānbiān zuìměide yúnduǒ
Spring has come again and flowers are blooming on the hillside
春天又来到了花开满山坡 / chūntiān yòu láidào le huā kāimǎn shānpō
Planting hope will reap a harvest
种下希望就会收获 / zhòngxià xīwàng jiùhuì shōuhuò

Never feel you’re annoying
从不觉得你讨厌 / cóngbù juéde nǐ tǎoyàn
Love everything about you
你的一切都喜欢 / nǐde yīqiè dōuxǐhuān
With you every day is fresh
有你的每天都新鲜 / yǒu nǐde měitiān dōu xīnxiān
With you the sun is more brilliant
有你阳光更灿烂 / yǒu nǐ yángguāng gèng cànlàn
With you the night isn’t dark
有你黑夜不黑暗 / yǒu nǐ hēiyè bù hēiàn
You’re a white cloud and I’m a blue sky
你是白云我是蓝天 / nǐ shì báiyún wǒ shì lántiān
In spring wander with you among the flowering shrubs
春天和你漫步在盛开的花丛间 / chūntiān hé nǐ mànbù zài shèngkāide huācóng jiān
On summer nights accompany you to watch the stars twinkling
夏天夜晚陪你一起看星星眨眼 / xiàtiān yèwǎn péi nǐ yīqǐ kàn xīngxīng zhǎyǎn
At dusk in autumn linger with you in golden grain fields
秋天黄昏与你徜徉在金色麦田 / qiūtiān huánghūn yǔ nǐ chángyáng zài jīnsè màitián
When the winter snowflakes flutter you add even more warmth
冬天雪花飞舞有你更加温暖 / dōngtiān xuěhuā fēiwǔ yǒu nǐ gèngjiā wēnnuǎn

In defense of brutally harsh traditional Chinese fathers

With a revamped Chinese study routine, I’m trying to consume as much Chinese content as I can. My teacher had me subscribe to a Weixin reading account, and I quickly found an article that’s valuable to foreigners, IMO, especially foreigners who have kids in China and Chinese friends.

The author defends the traditional harshness of Chinese fathers (as today’s 30-somethings might have experienced it) from a couple different angles. Describing common methods of forcing kids to study, some which would result in neighbours calling the cops in North America and which some Chinese parents say are “the obliteration of the child’s innate nature” (对孩子天性的泯灭), she takes aim at rising Chinese parenting trends associated with “respecting” and “accommodating the innate nature of children” (尊重/顺应孩子的天性), “free development/childrearing” (自由发展/养育), and “happy education” (快乐教育).

One of my brighter former students — she’s around 30 years old now and relatively accomplished — told me, “My father has never praised me, not even once.” To better understand her kind of experience, or people who advocate for that kind of parenting, or people who have to put up with relatives who think this way, I recommend reading through this: 你越弱,越没有人宠你 (pro tip: read in your browser with the Perapera Chinese plugin installed). The author would use my former student’s case as a point in her favour, like she does with the story of the Indian wrestling champion who forced two of his daughters to become wrestling champions (movie pictured above).

This article also demonstrates the advantage of reading “real” Chinese. When you read something written by Chinese in Chinese for Chinese you get exposed to Chinese ways of speaking, composing, arguing and thinking — you can’t get much of that from reading translated content.

For more about harsh Chinese parenting, see:

Watching Chinese TV for language learning

So I’m sitting on the couch about five minutes into an episode of this one show that’s supposedly the Chinese equivalent of Friends (爱情公寓) when Jessica, who’s sitting opposite where she can hear the dialogue but can’t see the screen, suddenly says, “Hey! I know that scene! They’re totally ripping that off!” Turns out this show isn’t just a similar; it actually copied parts of the script and story from the original Friends so blatantly that Chinese viewers complained on social media and the producers apologized.

(So does that make it extra Chinese?)

I’ve never even seen a full episode of the original Friends, but it’s really popular in China for learning English — the dialogue is simple, filled with digestible one-or-two-liners, and the canned laughter tells you how to understand the context (funny, sad, touching, etc.). That’s what we need, only in Chinese: something that’s easy to follow because it’s simple nearly to the point of stupid. We’re not aiming for challenging content; we’re aiming for lots of content. (And the reality of it is, nearly any Chinese TV show is challenging; you’ll need intermediate/upper-intermediate Chinese to even attempt to follow most mainstream Chinese media.)

In addition to Googling through the language study blogs, I asked on Weixin what TV series we should watch for language learning. Here’s what the first 26 responses suggested: 人民的民义(x8)、西游记(x3)、琅琊榜(x2)、欢乐颂(x2)、大宅门伪装者父母爱情芈月传甄嬛传三国一仆二主大头儿子,小头爸爸小别离我爱我家康熙王朝神探狄仁杰海尔弟兄

At different language levels, you need to study in different ways. I’m in the middle of revamping my study routine — much in the spirit of what Hacking Chinese describes here — and part of that is regularly consuming more Chinese content.

Are there any Chinese TV shows you’ve actually found helpful to your language study?

We haven’t picked anything to follow yet, but we’ll take a look at 欢乐颂我爱我家大头儿子,小头爸爸 and 人民的民义,along with 爸爸去哪儿?, 快乐大本营 and 爱情公寓。And for whatever we watch, we’ll also try to get our hands on the subtitle files.

The Chinese state church’s call to worship song

During a recent Sunday lunch one of our kids mentioned, “Our Sunday school teacher told us we had to be quiet because we’re in God’s temple.”

chineseJesuschildrenWe told her the Sunday school teacher was wrong. (No hard feelings toward the teacher; you can’t expect volunteer Sunday school teachers to be theologians or exegetes, but temples and church buildings aren’t the same thing theologically or functionally.)

It’s not hard to guess why she would have said that: between the lyrics of the 3-Self Patriotic Church‘s opening song and Chinese Christians’ penchant for big church buildings with serious, stately services — our friend was turned away at the door of Qingdao’s flagship 3-Self church just last Sunday because she was wearing flip-flops and therefore “didn’t have a worshipful heart,” “wasn’t obedient to God,” and would “disturb other worshipers” — Chinese state churches send the “temple” message every week.

But if you’re going to spend Sunday mornings in a Chinese state church, this song, along with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, are probably the most useful bits of Chinese to learn first.
殿》 is the Chinese version of the 1872 hymn “The Lord is in His Holy Temple (Quam Dilecta)” by George F. Root (1820-1895) and based on Habakkuk 2:20. It’s sung by the choir as the call to worship (i.e. the “everyone quiet down we’re starting now” song). Usually the congregation just listens, but it’s musically interesting and you might want to sing along, doctrinal shortcomings notwithstanding. ;)

主在圣殿中 / zhǔ zài shèngdiàn zhōng
主在圣殿中 / zhǔ zài shèngdiàn zhōng
普天下的人 / pǔtiānxiàde rén
在主面前都应当肃静 / zài zhǔ miànqián dōu yīngdāng sùjìng
肃静 肃静 / sùjìng sùjìng
应当肃静 / yīngdāng sùjìng
阿们 / āmen

The Lord is in His holy temple,
the Lord is in His holy temple;
Let all the earth keep silence,
Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Keep silence, keep silence before Him.

xkcd’s Duty Calls in Chinese

Humour may be hard to translate, but with xkcd’s life-altering Duty Calls, someone had to try.
你还不上床? nǐ hái bù shàngchuáng?
等会儿。手头有要紧事。děnghuìr。shǒutóu yǒu yàojǐn shì。
你说什么? nǐ shuō shénme?
网上有个人很蠢! wǎngshàng yǒu ge rén hěnchǔn!

This was part of a class assignment, and it’s been polished by my teacher. Her first choice for the last line was, “网上有个彪子!” But, “彪子 (biāozi) is a little (zāng)” [giggle] “Well, it’s not that ” [giggle giggle] “just a little.” [more giggling]

How to tally things up in Chinese

Found this on a partially finished structure in a work site on the east side of the last remaining piece of Qingdao’s old Licun Prison for Chinese:chinese_tallyingThis is how you tally things up in Chinese — with the character 正. Notice it has five strokes, just like Western tallying, and that the last 正 in each section is only partially finished. Go ahead and count ’em up, and see if their total of 266 is accurate!


The Romance of Han & Leia — in Chinese

First let’s set the relational context by recalling Han (汉 hàn) and Leia’s (莱娅 láiyà) recent romantic history…
…in which Leia calls Han a:
…and then looks at him like this:
Leia (莱娅 láiyà):
真不知道这些幻想哪里来的 zhēn bùzhīdào zhèxiē huànxiǎng nǎlǐ láide
“Really don’t know where these illusions come from”

Han (汉 hàn):
但你没在南侧通道看到我们 dàn nǐ méi zài náncè tōngdào kàndào wǒmen
“But you didn’t see us in the south passage”
她对我倾诉钟情了喔 tā duì wǒ qīngsù zhōngqíng le ō
“She poured out her heart to me”

Leia (莱娅 láiyà):
你这个自大、愚蠢、邋遢的呆瓜! nǐ zhège zìdà、yúchǔn、lātade dāiguā
“You self-important, foolish, sloppy idiot!”

Han (汉 hàn):
谁邋遢了?shuí lāta le?
“Who’s sloppy?”

Undaunted, our hero Han, who always shoots first, is not about to let little things like kissing your brother or getting called nerf herder slow him down for long:
Han (汉 hàn):
chéngrènba,yǒushíhòu nǐ juéde wǒ hái bùcuò
“Admit it, sometimes you think I’m not too bad”

scoundrelliumangLeia (莱娅 láiyà):
“Perhaps, occasionally”
nǐ zài bù shuǎliúmáng deshíhòu
“When you aren’t behaving like a hoodlum”

Han (汉 hàn):
“Behaving like a hoodlum? Behaving like a hoodlum?”
nǐ xǐhuān wǒ,yīnwèi wǒ shì liúmáng
“You like me, because I’m a hoodlum”
nǐ zhè rén jiù xūyào liúmáng
“You need a hoodlum”