Chengyu are back!!
Not really, but tonight I met a very clever young man who speaks five languages and is considerably less than half my age. I thought I would find the secret of learning Chinese from the master: so.. 'what is the secret of learning Chinese'. He thought a moment and said.. 'tones .. and chengyu'.
Ah, I wasn't born yesterday, so I said 'don't come the raw prawn with me, I hardly ever hear chengyu.' 'Yes', he admitted, 'that's true we hardly ever use it, but when you DO hear it you need to understand, or you will never master the language.'
Ok, I said, give me two chengyu now that YOU find useful. He gave me these:
一本正经 yī běn zhèng jīng (concentrate!)
入乡随俗 rù xiāng suí sú (when in Rome...)
kimiikJuly 18, 2011, 06:06 PM
What is the secret of learning English ? to know American Pop Culture and ... french
tingyunJuly 18, 2011, 07:25 PM
Was he Chinese? 一本正经 doesn't really mean the act to 'concentrate' - rather it means to take seriously, to be earnest in atittitude. Ie you'd use it to express a serious and earnest way of asking a question, or a serious attitude towards ones studies in general, but you wouldn't use it to mean some person is currently concentrating on some specific thing (though of course a serious attitude towards something may in many contexts imply concentration). For concentration 聚精会神 ju4jing1hui4shen2 could be used.
That's the problem with being slightly off in one's understanding - if one used 一本正经 when one's meaning was really 聚精会神, it's possible one would never be corrected, as people would just think you meant to describe a serious attitude rather than the act of conentrating...and in most circumstances hearing others use the word you could 混淆 hun4xiao2 (mix up) the two and the context wouldn't let you know something was off...
Always good to get your input - if memory serves correct you came to China for a while, is that right?
Yes my 'clever young man' is indeed a native speaker, born in the rural back blocks but grew up in the capital where I live. An outstanding brain; I'd say a scary intelligence. (Maybe I am easily impressed.)
'you wouldn't use it to mean some person is currently concentrating on some specific thing ' - in fact the example he gave me was that of a pilot flying a plane, which I think would involves 'currently concentrating on some specific thing', but could also be something you take seriously, and requiring an earnest attitude. But he said the word 'concentrate!' in English after describing the act of flying a plane. Maybe his English is somewhat limited? I took it that he was encapsulating the meaning in this one word fro my benefit, but I may have been better to listen to everything that was said before.
But I will take your comments on board - I hope to see him again soon and might get some clarification.
Yep, I visited for a few weeks but am now back in the States.
Perhaps it was an english problem - or also maybe he has a slightly off sense of the chengyu. I'm sure there are a few english expressions that I have a misunderstanding of - the same is probably true for everyone regardless of native language. If it helps I went ahead and pulled the definitions for you -
I don't think there is a problem with his pilot example depending on what you were trying to convey - but it wouldn't be the same as saying the specific act of concentrating (though concentrating would be an implied from the earnestness, you are more directly saying something more general about a serious earnest attitude).
darkstar94July 18, 2011, 10:38 PM
I like 入乡随俗, I just it's easier to use for English speakers maybe. A few ones I learnt recently from chatting to people online that I think are pretty cool are 滥竽充数 (I actually managed to use this one too) which means like a token person, so if you were in a orchestra but you were only pretending to play you would be 滥竽充数. Another one I liked was 一言难尽 cause the meaning is simple which is something like "hard to explain in a few words". Another simple one 熟能生巧 practice makes perfect. It's surprising how many Chengyu people use to me, it seems to me that people either use them quite a bit or very little/not at all but that's just from my experience.
sclimJuly 19, 2011, 06:44 AM
滥竽充数 is brilliant. Most chengyu have at least some oblique or non-literal meaning, but this one is particularly delicious with the mental imagary: I think we've all had the experience of being in a group where some people aren't pulling their weight because they're incompentent, and usually they know it. So in a choir these people usually sing sort of quietly, or at least in the beginning of passages where a mistake in timing would be sort of obvious. Or, as you say, in an orchestra, the low-grade fill-in 竽 player merely pretends to play, so as not to trumpet his non-musicianship. So much going on, all that covert faking, yet with knowing looks by the other musicians, all conveyed by 4 words!
bodaweiJuly 20, 2011, 02:26 PM
Sorry I can't reply to everyone individually, guys, I am off on a little adventure in a few minutes; just me, my e-dictionary and five other people.. :)
and won't have much opportunity to engage with ChinesePod for a while.
But thanks for your chengyu contributions - as I have said in the past I am very slow at learning chengyu. It will come eventually. :)
Thanks for the good wishes baba and tingyun - I did have a great time. Home briefly and off again tomorrow; when I get a chance I will report on a few things I came across.
First thing that comes to mind is that for those considering a trip to China it is exceptionally easy to get around, and relatively safe. And of course it offers wonderful opportunities to practice your Chinese and get to know more about the culture.
langnaseJuly 21, 2011, 05:15 PM
has anybody seen the movie Karate Kid ?
there was this one chengyu, but i cant remember it....
the meaning was "if you practice too often, it's bad" or something like that....