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

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.

american_Friends
(So does that make it extra Chinese?)
chinese_friends

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.

Chinese characters vs. English sight words

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Our oldest daughter is loving the neighbourhood Chinese literacy class.
You don’t have to be like a Chinese immigrant we talked with this past summer in Louisiana. She said she tells Americans to not even bother trying to learn Chinese because “it’s just too hard.”

Chinese is not impossible. It’s not even all that hard. But it is slow. Without an alphabet, it’s tough on kids who grew up on phonics and spelling rules and “it’s good to colour outside the lines!” There’s just a ton of brute memorization. And memorization is not a highly valued skill in our Western education systems. But it’s an absolute necessity for a non-phonetic language.

For example, this is our 6-year-old’s box of Chinese reading curriculum, which she uses at a training centre in our neighbourhood for kindergarten and Grade 1 students (she’s the only 老外):
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It says, “Primary students’ commonly used 1500 characters.” That’s FIFTEEN-HUNDRED Chinese characters. For five-year-olds. To memorize in 4.5 months. So that they won’t be left behind next fall by the speed and pressure of Grade 1.

And this is a non-traditional, less-pressure, relatively fun learning system.

By comparison, her English homeschooling curriculum has her memorizing maybe five sight words per week for Grade 1. I googled around, and current standards for 5-to-6-year-olds seem to aim for recognition of around 50 high-frequency words by the end of kindergarten, and familiarity with 300 total words (sight words and sounded-out words) by the end of Grade 1.

Thankfully, our oldest daughter is loving the class and the teacher, who’s competent and experienced, warm but firm in a ruthlessly efficient, no-nonsense Chinese Mary Poppins kind of way.
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For more about Learning Mandarin, see:

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the Commies are hiding in my dictionary!

Simplified Chinese characters aren’t the only way to tell if your Chinese dictionary is from the Mainland or not. Sometimes the sentence examples provide clues. In case any of you need to know how to use 接受communistdictionary

Have yourself an even Chinesier little Christmas…

To read the Christmas story in Chinese, click here. But to listen to it dramatized in Chinese, download the mp3s below! (Hint: mouseover the dotted underlined names.)

1. 预言耶稣降生 Jesus’ Birth Foretold
The kids gather for family story time with Grandpa Xīmiàn, who tells them about Yǐsàiyà‘s promised Mísàiyà who could arrive any time. The kids think “Yǐmǎnèilì” is a weird-sounding name.

2. 马利亚订婚天使报信 Mary’s Engagement & the Angel’s Announcement
Xīmiàn awakes in the night from a dream, which he thinks was more than just a dream. Meanwhile Mǎlìyà‘s parents arrange her marriage to Yuēsè. And then the angel Jiābǎiliè surprises Mǎlìyà with some surprising news.

3. 起名耶稣 Name Him Jesus
Old geezers Sājiālìyà and Yīlìshābái wheeze their way through some expository dialogue. Sājiālìyà gets the shock of his (long) life when an angel appears to him in the temple and tells him some news. He just can’t believe it, but it comes true regardless. Meanwhile Yuēsè finds out Mǎlìyà is pregnant (and not by him!). He’s not buying all this pregnant virgin Holy Spirit business and makes up his mind to divorce her (though quietly, to help her save face). But before he can act, an angel intervenes.

4. 耶稣降生 Jesus’ Birth
Yuēsè and Mǎlìyà find out they must travel over 100 miles to Bólìhéng because of the mandated census. When they finally get there, Yuēsè has a heck of a time finding somewhere for them to stay. They finally find a place, and the sweet baby Yēsū is born!

5. 牧羊人 Shepherds Hear the Joyous News
Some lowly shepherds chat idly about how it’s actually not that bad to be shepherds; after all, many legendary Hebrew patriarchs were shepherds! They doze off talking about what they expect the long-awaited Mísàiyà to do when he finally arrives. Then they’re awoken by angels, who send them into Bólìhéng to find their infant Mísàiyà.

6. 西面祝福婴孩耶稣 Simeon Blesses Baby Jesus
Yuēsè and Mǎlìyà can’t understand why God sent the Mísàiyà to them, of all people, in a stable, of all places, and only told some stinking shepherds about it, rather than making it a huge deal for their entire nation. But when they bring Yēsū to the temple, Xīmiàn and the prophetess Yàná are there, and they each have some special things to say. Yuēsè and Mǎlìyà don’t understand it all, though, especially the parts about how the Mísàiyà is not just for the Israelites alone.

7. 博士来访 The Wisemen Visit
Scribes in the temple discuss the rumours of a newborn Jewish Mísàiyà, but the High Priest is having none of it. As they’re speaking scholars from the East arrive, claiming their study of the stars led them to Yēlùsālěng to seek the newborn Mísàiyà. But they’re told there is no such Mísàiyà and sent away. Meanwhile King Xīlǜ hears the rumours of a newborn king and begins plotting to preserve his reign. He sends the scholars from the East to find him in Bólìhéng, the Mísàiyà’s birthplace as indicated by their scriptures.

8. 逃亡埃及 Flee to Egypt
King Xīlǜ is ticked that the scholars from the East somehow were warned not to report back to him the Mísàiyà’s location. He orders the execution of all the infants in Bólìhéng. Yuēsè and Mǎlìyà sneak off during night to Āijí.

The download links are from the Chinese site 基督徒的家园, where they have the entire Bible dramatized and available for free download, one story at a time. Or you can download the entire OT or NT at one go from John at Sinosplice, Bible Stories in Chinese:

…they injected a healthy dose of Chinese culture. Just listen to the way Mary talks to baby Jesus, or the way the Israelites argue with Aaron over creating the golden calf. And then of course, there’s the fun of hearing the voice of God in Chinese, or Abraham sounding like an old Chinese man.

If the above download links down work try this: ChineseChristmasStorymp3s.zip

P.S. — We also have Chinese Christmas art and Chinese Christmas carols.

P.P.S. — Your Christmas still not Chinesey enough yet?

In China, math spells romance! (Secret Chinese love codes)

With only 409 syllables in the entire language, Chinese has too many homophones. That might sound judgmental but hear me out: Jessica’s Chinese name, for example, has in it. If I type “yi” on my phone, it’s the 90th (!!) yi in the list of yi characters to scroll through. It’s a good thing I love her so much, because inputting her name is serious 麻烦

So the Chinese totally go to town on homophone wordplays. They don’t even need to be true homophones; drunk language student pronunciation is apparently good enough to get the meaning across. In fact they don’t even need words; numbers work just fine. Turns out that in Mandarin you can say a lot with numbers. Like on the inside of our friends’ wedding rings:

They inscribed “L.L. 14520” inside the bands. The “L”s are just for their last names: Liú and . But the numbers when spoken are yī sì wǔ èr líng, which to them sounds like yī shì wǒ ài nǐ一世我爱你),which means: “(For my) whole life I love you”. (“一世” is short for “一生一世”。)

I showed the picture to my preschool office coworkers and they all got it in under three seconds.

One of their friends has 201314 on her ring: èr líng yī sān yī sì, which sounds like ài nǐ yī shēng yī shì (爱你一生一世: “love you (for my) whole life”).

There’s more language learning fun to be had in the Learning Mandarin topic. See also:

Preparing for the Resurrection Festival (aka “Easter”) in Chinese

If you aren’t going to do in-depth historical and cultural reading on 1st-century Palestine and learn koiné Greek, but you want an Easter tie-in for your Chinese language-learning and/or an intro to the basic “Resurrection Festival” narrative, here you go!

Even if you’re totally unfamiliar with the Easter story, this short reading list should more or less work for you. It’s all actual biblical text, abridged and slightly rearranged to make the narrative easier to follow. It doesn’t include every detail; read each of the four gospel accounts separately for that (like you should! ha). And don’t do like this in exegesis class or they’ll fail you.


“Pilate Washes His Hands” by He Qi.

Each PDF’s text comes in five different Chinese translations, all of which you can view online at BibleGateway.com and Bible.com. My plan is to do one a week ending on Resurrection Festival Sunday. Here they’re arranged to fit the traditional Western church calendar, but it’s cramming a lot of text into only a few days:

  • 2014年4月13日 — 棕榈主日 — 〈复活节2
  • 2014年4月17日 — 濯足节 — 〈复活节3〉+ 〈复活节4
  • 2014年4月18日 — 受难节 — 〈复活节5〉+ 〈复活节6
  • 2014年4月20日 — 复活节星期日 — 〈复活节7

复活节1.pdf

Peter tells Jesus he thinks Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus tells him he’s right, but when Jesus goes on to talk about dying a horrible, humiliating death at the hands of their foreign political oppressors — basically the antithesis of what the Messiah was expected to be — Peter tells him to knock it off. Jesus responds with some tough love.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 可8:27-38 (但7:13-14))

复活节2.pdf

The common people are all keyed up. Word’s got around about Jesus’ miracles, especially about raising Lazarus from the dead. And the religious and cultural elites are calling for Jesus’ arrest. Crowds are fickle, but they know what potential public drama looks like. Will Jesus dare show up in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival when the religious and cultural establishment is out to get him? And what will happen if he does?
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 约11:55-12:19;2:13-25)

复活节3.pdf

It’s the Passover meal with Jesus’ closest followers, his final meal before his death. Jesus continues to demonstrate his radical redefinition of Messiah and the subversive, upside-down nature of life in his ‘Kingdom’ by taking the role of the lowest servant and washing everyone’s filthy 1st-century Palestine feet. With wine and broken bread, he tells his disciples that his imminent sacrifice is for them.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 路22:7-13;约13:1-17;路22:14-30;(但7:13-14))

复活节4.pdf

Jesus knows it’s mere hours before his suffering and death, and he tells his disciples they will all abandon him. Peter refuses to accept this — he’s not afraid of violent revolution; that’s what he signed up for in the first place and he’s not the only one. Despite what Jesus has already said and done, his followers just can’t think outside their preconception of ‘Messiah’ as the long-awaited political liberator. Some of them are armed, and there’s blood shed when Jesus is betrayed. But Jesus’ reaction shatters them, and they do exactly as he said they would.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 太26:30-46;路22:47-52;可14:49-52;(但7:13-14))

复活节5.pdf

Jesus’ enemies can’t manage to convict him of blasphemy at their illegal trial because the testimonies of their lying witnesses conflict. So Jesus helps them out and makes a direct claim to divinity right in the high priest’s face. By their own laws that means the death penalty, but under Roman occupation they need an order from Pilate, the Roman governor, so they claim Jesus was organizing an armed rebellion against Rome. Pilate declares him innocent multiple times, but in the interests of diffusing a potential riot he orders Jesus’ brutal flogging and crucifixion, while placing responsibility for Jesus’ death squarely on the religious leaders and the mob they’d stirred up.

Meanwhile, Peter’s followed at a distance all this time, sneaking in within earshot of the proceedings — the only disciple brave enough. He alone of the 12 core disciples has refused to give up all hope that Jesus will bust out with the supernatural power and take down the Romans and the politically sold-out Jewish establishment. But as things turn from bad to worse and the people around him begin to recognize him as one of Jesus’ followers, he finally breaks.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 可14:53-72;路23:1-23;太27:24-31;(但7:13-14))

复活节6.pdf

Jesus is crucified. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two high-ranking and prominent religious leaders, publicly defy their peers by requesting Jesus’ body and giving him as honourable a burial as they can. The religious leaders, aware of Jesus’ claim that he would come back to life on the third day, convince Pilate to place guards at the tomb and seal it with a heavy stone so Jesus’ followers can’t steal the body and claim he’s resurrected. (Plus: the full psalm from which Jesus quotes, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, and the previous bits involving Nicodemus: where he sneaks off in the night to talk with Jesus, and where he questions the legality of what his peers are suggesting.)
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 路23:26-43;约19:23-27;可15:33-41、43;约19:38b-40;路23:54-56;太27:62-66;(诗篇22);(约3:1-21、7:45-53))

复活节7.pdf

Women with burial spices arrive at the tomb early in the morning only to discover it open and empty. An angel invites them to have a look, and then go tell Jesus’ other followers. Meanwhile the guards report what happened to the leaders, who bribe them into saying that Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they slept. Jesus appears to various groups of disciples on different occasions, including Thomas, who has refused to believe any of the reports of Jesus’ resurrection, and Peter, who’d denied knowing Jesus before his crucifixion. Peter’s gone back to fishing, and in a dramatic scene reminiscent of previous key shared experiences between the two, Jesus appears and addresses Peter’s denial.
(Read Chinese/English parallel online: 太28:1-15;路24:13-34;约20:19-21:25)

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“Nail Mark” (detail) by Li Wei San.

More Resurrection Festival in China: