A little mouse in an email address

In my previous post on punctuation, I left out perhaps one of the most interesting, creative, and perhaps most relevant to the internet, symbols: the @ symbol!

When you ask people for their email address, they’ll often answer you with:

name小老鼠gmail.com

At first this completely threw me off–until I thought it out and realized how adorable it is. Yes, indeed, the @ symbol is referred to as 小老鼠 (xiǎolǎoshǔ), or little mouse, in Chinese.

And, really, when you think about it, doesn’t it kind of look like one?

at-sign

The Art of Punctuation in Chinese

There is a certain art to Chinese punctuation, and as a graduate student, writing papers with proper pronunciation is exceedingly important.

「知漢字者智。知標點者明。」-Me, breaking traditional poetic structure.

A Little History of Chinese Punctuation

Chinese traditionally had no paragraphs, no spaces and, especially, no punctuation. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century did punctuation start to appear in Chinese, eventually being standardized into what it is today. Because Chinese punctuation was influenced by Western languages, there is some carry over in punctuation. So you’ll see the ! ? : ; ( ) [ ] that you’re likely familiar with. Still, there are some fun ones specific to Chinese so let’s take a look below!

Chinese Punctuation

punct_period
Period ( 。 )

The period in Chinese is called 句號/句号 (jùhào) and is in the middle of a line: 我很好。

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Quotation Marks  ( 「…」 ,『…』, “…”)

Quotation marks in Chinese are called 引號/引号(yǐnhào) and are different in Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Here’s how they break down:

Traditional Chinese

In Traditional Chinese,  single quotation marks are rendered as「…」while double quotation marks are『…』. Often, the double quotation makrs are used when embedded within single quotation marks, such as :「…『…』…」.

Simplified Chinese

Simplified Chinese uses the quotation marks we’re familiar with: “…” and ‘…’. In contrast to Traditional Chinese, single quotation marks are used when embedded within double quotation marks: “…‘…’…”.

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The “List Comma” ( 、 )

The “list comma” is often used in long lists, for example: 水果有很多種類:蘋果、香蕉、句子、芭樂、蓮霧、榴蓮、. It’s called 頓號/顿号 (dùnhào) in Chinese. It can be used in a list like 蘋果、三星及HTC” or  蘋果、三星、HTC (Apple, Samsung and HTC).

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Middle Dot (‧)

The fancy name for this is “interpunct” but in Chinese it’s 間隔號/间隔号 (jiàngéhào), or quite simply “gap marker”.

The middle dot you’ll often seen between Western names, separating first and last name. For example Napoleon Bonaparte is rendered 拿破崙·波拿巴/拿破仑・波拿巴 (Nápòlún · Bōnábā) in Chinese, with the middle dot separating his first and last name.

title_brackets

Title Marks ( 《》and ﹏﹏﹏)

You’ll see the two types of title marks above.  Generally, for book and film titles you’ll see《…》, while〈…〉is used more for articles and can also be embedded within the title brackets above, such as: 《…〈…〉…》. Finally, the fun little wavy underline thing (﹏﹏﹏) can also be used in lieu of the brackets to denote titles and important names.

In Chinese, these are still referred to as “quotation marks”, 引號/引号(yǐnhào). However, if you want to get fancy,《…》are called 雙尖引號/双尖引号 (shuāngjiānyǐnhào), or double pointed quotation marks. While〈…〉are called 單尖引號/单尖引号 (dānjiānyǐnhào), or single pointed quotation marks.

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The Elusive Ellipsis ( …… )

The ellipsis in Chinese has six dots instead of three, and the usage is the same as in English. In Chinese it’s called 省略號/省略号 (shěnglüèhào).

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Tilde (wavy dash) ( ~ )

This has to be my favorite one to say in Chinese because it’s the “wave mark” or 波浪號/波浪号 (bōlànghào).

The wavy dash has a few different usages in Chinese. It can show a range such as 5~8小時, especially when some numbers are estimates. It can also used to soften the ending of a sentence, or to elongate a vowel sound.

Anyway there it is!

It’s pretty straightforward, and similar enough to punctuation in English that it should be easy to get a hang of. Still, the best way to get used to the usage is to see it in the wild. Some of the best places to look are blogs, novels, and even news.

 

New Chinese Learning App Roundup!

There’s been quite a few great new apps released for both iOS and Android recently that would make a great addition to any Chinese learner’s toolbox. So in this post I wanted to highlight a few of them and share with everyone to take a look at! I’ve also included screenshots at the very end of the post.

Pinyin Browser152x152

  • Platform: iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Free but has in-app purchases
  • Official app website can be found here.

Pinyin Browser is a lovely little browser app that allows you to insert Pinyin or even Zhuyin above the text on any website that has Chinese text. This is a great way to practice pronunciation as you read news, blog posts, and more on the web.

In the free version, you’re limited to what websites you can visit. To get access beyond these trial sites, you need to pay $1.99 to upgrade.

You can find Pinyin Browser for iOS here.

Laowai Pro975318_larger

  • Platform: iOS (iPhone, iPad)
  • Free but offers in-app purchases
  • Official app website can be found here

A relatively lightweight app, Laowai Pro provides a selection of texts for you to read and lookup words as you go. It also has flashcards and an SRS system integrated into it, though I prefer using the app to read. The selection of texts are primarily Chinese Classics and a few news articles. Dream of the Red Mansion is also included.

The app also has the options to switch to Traditional, too. You can pay $1.99 to remove ads and $4.99 to get a stack of 30,000+ flashcards.

You can find Laowai Pro for iOS here.

Mandaread836515_larger

  • Platform iOS (iPhone, iPad); Android coming soon
  • Free but requires account
  • Official app website can be found here.

Some may remember the early stages of the Mandaread website, and while it seemed dormant for a while, they’ve come out with a rather well done app. They have a large variety of texts organized by level (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced) and offer popups for each vocabulary word in the text. I also appreciate that they have pre-defined courses to get you started.

One downside is that you can’t switch between Traditional and Simplified Chinese, with the app currently only offering the texts in Simplified.

You can get Mandaread for iOS here.

For all the Above..

I’d recommend picking them all up since they’re all free and really good at different things. Plus, the articles in both Laowai Pro and Mandaread are quite different, so you’ll always have interesting and new content to read.

Have you used any of these? Let me know what you think in the comments!

For screenshots of the apps, click below.

Continue reading “New Chinese Learning App Roundup!”

“You sold me out!”

A staple of any good mafia movie is when one of the guys rats out someone for fun and/or profit.

And guess what? Chinese has an awesome phrase for a situation like that, too!

sold_me_out

你出賣我!(nǐ chūmài wǒ)

出賣 is actually a set phrase which, aside from meaning quite literally “to sell”, also means “to sell out/betray”.

You can also 出賣朋友, too, but that’s not really all that nice to do is it? 🙁

It’s super fun and versatile to use, and I totally recommend you try using to joke around with your friends.

It’s also used in the name of a song, too!

The Skritter Android Beta is Out!

Good news for Skritter users with Android devices–the Skritter Beta for Android is out!

Check out the post below for a few screenshots and brief overview. Also, learn how to get a three-week free trial (instead of the usual one week) to test out the app!

With a cute splash screen to boot!
With a cute splash screen to boot!

Continue reading “The Skritter Android Beta is Out!”

A Quick Look at “Learn a Chinese Phrase”

wsu_logo

I was recently contacted by the Learn a Chinese Phrase team from Wayne State University about a video series they put together. I must admit this was pretty surprising, considering I went to school in Michigan and had friends at Wayne State University, too. So I was quite curious to see what they had put together, and now I’m sharing with you! Enjoy.

First up, here’s some basic background on the program: Learn a Chinese Phrase was started in November 2011 by the Confucius Institute at Wayne State University. The goal they hope to accomplish is to teach Chinese through interesting and fun idioms. They take a Chinese idiom and, if it has an English equivalent, teach it by association for the student to both learn the idiom and structure as well.

As of this post, Learn a Chinese Phrase has 63 videos already online. In addition to the 2-minute idiom videos, there are 10 accompanying supplementary videos. In these videos, the teacher takes the idiom just presented and breaks it down for the student. I have to admit, the videos are actually pretty cute at times (I liked the one about being stingy) and I found them quite enjoyable to watch.

I got to talk with John Brender, Ph.D. who is in charge of the project and asked him what they plan to do in the future. He replied:

We are in the process of producing a mobile app to enable users to take these lesson on the go. The app will allow users to take our lessons on the go and test their knowledge on each lesson via the interactive in-app quizzes.

I’m a huge fan of digital apps for learning Chinese on the go, so I am really looking forward to seeing what they put together! If you’re interested, here are links to one of their idiom videos and a supplementary lesson.

You can find “Learn a Chinese Phrase” on YoutubeFacebook, or follow them on Twitter.

If you happen to check it out, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Have a Nice Trip!

Spotted at the airport:

haveanicejourney
In Chinese:

祝大家旅途愉快

祝 zhù wish

大家 dàjiā everyone

旅途 lǚtú journey/trip

愉快 yúkuài happy/cheerful

Or, in English, 🙂 Have a nice journey (or trip)!

It’s also easily adapted wishing, say, you friend or family to have a nice trip! Just switch out the 大家 for or

大家旅途愉快

=

旅途愉快

  • (nǐ) you

旅途愉快

  •  (nǐmen) you (plural)
  • Remember, of course,  (men) us used to make subjects, referring to people, plural!

A Crash Course in Chinese Numbers

This is a pretty simple post, but hopefully it’ll give you a quick and easy introduction to Chinese numbers–which can be rather intimidating at first the larger they get! But as you’ll see, it’s pretty easy to figure out once you know a simple little trick.

Continue reading “A Crash Course in Chinese Numbers”

Addressing an Envelope in Taiwan – Horizontal

Now that we’ve looked at how to address envelopes in the more traditional vertical style, let’s take a look how to address horizontal envelopes!

Horizontal

As for the horizontal envelopes, the post office yet again gives us some great instructions:

收件人地址、姓名書於中央偏右,寄件人地址、姓名書於左上角或信封背面。郵遞區號書於地址上方第1行,郵票貼於右上角。

Breaking this down, we get the address and name of the recipient (收件人地址、姓名) in the middle, with the sender’s address and name (寄件人地址、姓名) on the upper right (or even the back!). The zip code is written above the address, and stamp goes on the upper right corner.

It’s pretty much the same style envelope we’re all familiar with, except in the way you order the address, which you may remember from this post.

And the order for writing them:

  • 第1行:郵遞區號 [ yóu​dì​qū​hào ]
  • 第2行:地址 [ dì​zhǐ ]
  • 第3行:姓名或商號名稱
      • 姓名 [ xìng​míng​ ]: name and surname
      • 商號 [ shāng​hào ]: business
      • 名稱 [ míng​chēng ]: name (of a thing or business)

In other words (or in English) it is:

  • First Line: Postal Code
  • Second Line: Address
  • Third Line: Name or Business Name

Note that 第 (dì) is used for ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc) and 行 (háng) is used for lines or rows.

NOTE:

In this context 行 is always pronounced háng and never xíng!

式樣 (style [ shì​yàng ]​):

envelopehorizontalSource

Here, too, you’ll notice they also use 啟 (to open [ qǐ ]) next to the recipient’s name and 緘 (to close; to seal [ jiān ]) next to sender’s name. As before, it is more common to see 收 [ shōu ] for “to” and 寄 [ jì ] “from” instead of 啟 and 緘.

And that’s it! I hope this guide was helpful for you. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below!

Addressing an Envelope in Taiwan – Vertical

Since we’ve got our addresses down, on to envelopes! In Taiwan, there are two ways to write the address on the envelope: the more traditional, vertical, way or the more Western-style horizontal way (all depends on the type of envelope you have and how ambitious you are).

In this post, I’ll be taking a look at how to address a vertical style envelope in Taiwan!

Continue reading “Addressing an Envelope in Taiwan – Vertical”