Monday, April 28, 2008

Finding out how characters sound

The greatest frustration in learning Chinese is that I stare at the characters in the face and for the life of me cannot prononunce them. So in a sentence of ten words or so, I am lucky if I manage to read two or three.


When I bought Jimmy Liao's 'Turn Left, Turn right', I wanted so badly to be able to read the words. My tutor taught me the first five lines mentioned two posts ago.
I am hungry for more and in the Chinese-Tool.com site, I found this excellent tool that allows me to use my mouse to write a chinese character in both traditional and simplified form, select the one that I am interested to know about and the Hanyu Pinyin would appear. If the word is a traditional character, the simplified version will be given. Here is the tool:

http://www.chinese-tools.com/tools/mouse.html

This China-Tools.com is really a fantastic website!

I am using this tool to learn the simplified forms of the Turn Left, Turn Right story as well as how to read them. It may seem to be a laborious way to learn Chinese. However, being actively engaged in seeking out the forms and meanings of the words, I am at least breaking out of the frustration of not being able to figure out Chinese characters at all.

Confucius said:
"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand'

I need not say more.

Typing Hanyu Pinyin with intonations

I am unable to use the Microsoft Languages feature to produce Hanyu Pinyin with the proper intonation as I am using Windows Vista and it appears that to get this feature I will have do download a language pack and install it into my computer.

I am totally clueless about how this is done with my chief worry being that of my computer becoming messed up as a result of downloading things I do not fully understand. So I sought alternative solutions and in exploring China-Tools.com, I came across a pinyin editor on this website that does the job for me. It is not the best (the ideal would be to be able to highlight the pinyin sentences and get the intonation marks to appear at the click of a button or two) but it does the job well.


Just found this cool site that does the job just right -

http://www.purpleculture.net/Chinese-Character-Pinyin-Converter-Online.asp

朋友(Friend)周华健

这些年已个人
zhē xiē nián yí gè rén

风也过雨也走
fēng yé guò yú yé zóǔ

有过泪有过错
yǒu guò leì yǒu guò cuò

还记得坚持甚么
hái jì dē jiān chí shèn mè

Sunday, April 27, 2008

向左走 向右走 - Turn Left Turn Right

Last night, my tutor explained the first five lines of the book 'Turn Left, Turn Right' by Jimmy Liao. It was written in Traditional Chinese. My tutor explained the difficult words and gave me the Hanyu Pinyin for those words. I could manage the pinyin for the rest.
How nice, I thought to myself, if there were a tool that could convert Traditional Chinese to Simplified Chinese, I thought. Nowadays, thinking can be put into action at the touch of the keyboard. Through Google, I found the exact tool I was wishing from an excellent website for learning Chinese called Chinese-tools.com


The conversion tool is here:
http://www.chinese-tools.com/tools/converter-simptrad.html

Here's how I was engaged in learning Chinese through the 5 lines of Jimmy Liao's book Turn Left, Turn Right:

1 Copy the lines from the book (handwritten) Got the Hanyu Pinyin and simplified Chinese for the difficult words from my tutor who also taught me how to read it in poetic style

2 Typed the lines in Traditional Chinese and did a conversion to Simplified Chinese using the online tools I have found

3 Copied the texts of both Traditional and Simplified Chinese onto a Word Document.
Added the Hanyu Pinyin

My effort is reproduced below:


************************************************************
向左走 向右走 (Turn Left, turn right)
Jimmy Liao (幾米)
*************************************************
那年的冬天特別寒冷
那年的冬天特别寒冷

Na nian de dong tian te bie han leng

整個成市籠罩在陰濕的雨裡
整个成市笼罩在阴湿的雨里
Zheng ge cheng shi long zhao zai yin shi de yu li


灰蒙蒙的天空遲遲不著揚光
灰蒙蒙的天空迟迟不着扬光
Hui meng meng de tian kong chi chi bu zhao yang guang


讓人感到莫名的沮喪

让人感到莫名的沮丧
Rang ren kan dao mo ming de ju shang


常常走在街上就有一種
常常走在街上就有一种
Chang chang zou zai jie shang jiu you yi zhong


落淚的衝動
落泪的冲动
Luo lei de zhong dong

The words in blue are Simplified Chinese characters.

Reflection

Although it was like hard labour just to understand five lines from a story, I feel that it was worth it because I was totally engaged in the learning process. At the same time, I could not help but feel that the road ahead is really long and endless. There seems to be no end to the number of characters and seeing more and more of the characters while I was using the tools can be daunting.

How does one recognise and remember thousands of characters that cannot be pronounced? All I want is to be able to read Chinese well enough to step into another world and another culture that strangely is also my heritage. I figure that the only way is to immerse in the language through learning to read. For a start, I have found the reading materials that are enjoyable to me i.e. lyrics of songs and stories.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

朋友(Friend)

Second Session with Tutor

Today I had my second session with my Chinese Tutor. She tested me on the writing of the list of words she gave me for 'spelling' last week from the song 在爱我吧(Love me again). I almost got everything correct except for one word. She was pleased that my hard work in practising everyday had paid off. We then moved to another song by Zhou Hua Jian, one that was very popular called 朋友 (Friends). She explained the words that I did not understand (there were many) and gave me another list for 听写(Spelling)next week.

I showed her the contents of this blog and invited her to comment on my entries so that I can learn more. I asked if there was a way to make the intonation mark appear in the Hanyu Pinyin words that I type. She said I did not have Chinese fonts and downloaded a set for me. For some reason, even though we have saved the Chinese fonts into the Fonts folder, it could not be detected in word. I will have to find out why because it would be great to have hanyu pinyin with the proper intonations indicated.

I also showed her a book I bought a book written and illustrated by Jimmy Liao. It was one of many beautiful works that he has produced called 'Turn Left, Turn Right' 向左走,向右走。 It was written in traditional Chinese and I saw the potential of this book in helping me to further my study of Chinese as it has wonderfully descriptive pictures and not too many words.
To facilitate her teaching, I copied the first five lines that was written in traditional Chinese in a notebook leaving ample spaces in between so that she could write for me the hanyu pinyin as well as the simplified Chinese characters. This method worked for me and now I have two types of materials for learning - songs and story.

Lyrics of 朋友(Friend)周华健

这些年一个人
Zhe xie nian yi ge ren

风也过雨也走
Feng ye guo yu ye zou

有过泪有过
You guo lei you guo cuo

还记得坚持

Hai ji de jian chi shen me

真爱过才会
Zhen ai guo cai hui dong

寂寞会回首
Hui ji mo hui hui shou

终有梦终有你在心中
Zhong you meng zhong you ni zai xin zhong

朋友一生一起走
Peng you yi sheng yi qi zou

那些日子不再有
Na xie ri zi bu zai you

一句话一
Yi ju hua yi bei zi

一生
Yi sheng qing yi bei jiu

朋友不曾孤单过
Peng you bu ceng gu dan guo

一生朋友你会懂
Yi sheng peng you ni hui dong

还有还友
Hai you shang hai you tong

还要走还有我
Hai yao zou hai you wo
Characters in blue are my spelling list for next week.

Meaning of the song as I understand it to be

朋友(Friend)周华健

这些年一个人
Zhe xie nian yi ge ren
All these years I have been alone

风也过雨也走
Feng ye guo yu ye zou
The wind has passed, the rain has left

有过泪有过错
You guo lei you guo cuo
There has been tears, there have been mistakes

还记得坚莫甚么
Hai ji de jian chi shen me
Do you remember why we persisted

真爱过才会懂
Zhen ai guo cai hui dong
When you have really loved, you will understand

会寂寞会回首
Hui ji mo hui hui shou
I feel loneliness, I turn back

终有梦终有你在心中
Zhong you meng zhong you ni zai xin zhong
In the end, there are dreams and there is you in my heart

朋友一生一起走
Peng you yi sheng yi qi zou
Friends are forever

那些日子不再有
Na xie ri zi bu zai you
Those days will not be here again

一句话一辈子
Yi ju hua yi bei zi
A word, a lifetime

一生情一杯酒
Yi sheng qing yi bei jiu
A lifetime of love, a cup of wine

朋友不曾孤单过
Peng you bu ceng gu dan guo
Friends will never be alone

一生朋友你会懂
Yi sheng peng you ni hui dong
A lifetime of friendship, you will understand

还有伤还友痛
Hai you shang hai you tong
There is hurt and there is pain

还要走还有我

Hai yao zou hai you wo

Want to carry on, there is me

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

在爱我吧 (Love me again)

In this post, I am documenting my learning of Chinese using the lyrics of a song by Emil Chao called 在爱我吧 (Love me again). This post is in 3 parts and each part is designated with a caption in blue:
  1. Lyrics of the song
  2. Meaning of the song in English
  3. Learning the meaning of words
Song selection: 在爱我吧
Singer:Zhou Hua Jian周华健

******************************************************************************
Lyrics of 再爱我吧
******************************************************************************
I found the song lyrics long ago that gave both the pinyin and chinese characters with the intonation of each characted indicated. Unfortunately I am unable to put the tonal indicators here. Perhaps another time when I can upload a handwritten copy of the lyrics. I used the Chinese typing tool from the Chinese online dictionary to type the Chinese Characters.
在爱我吧
你对我已疲倦了马
ni dui wo yi pi juan le ma

为什么你不说话

wei shen me ni bu shuo hua

用你最初的回答在爱我吧。
yong ni zui chu de hui da zai ai wo ba

没有我你怕不怕
Mei you wo ni pa bu pa

孤独的黑夜向谁说话
Gu du de hei ye xiang shui shuo hua

难道你真的那么
Nan dao ni zhen de na me sha

嘿你!回过头想想我
Hei ni hui guo tou xiang xiang wo

看着我还是你的拥有
Kan zhao wo hai shi ni de yong you

嘿你!请珍惜你和我
Hei ni 去ing zhen xin ni he wo

你不能就此离去
Ni bu neng jiu ci li qu

难道你不觉得真的可惜
Nan dao ni bu jue de zhen de ke xi

再爱我吧再爱我吧
Zai ai wo ba zai ai wo ba

让我能再拥抱你一下
Rang wo neng zai yong bao ni yi xia

再爱我我吧再爱我我吧
Zai ai wo ba zai ai wo ba

请给我的回答
Qing gei wo ni de hui da

******************************************************************
Meaning of the song as I understand it to be.
******************************************************************
再爱我吧(Love me again)

你对我已疲倦了马
ni dui wo yi pi juan le ma
Are you tired of me?

为什么你不说话
wei shen me ni bu shuo hua
Why do you not say a word?

用你最初的回答在爱我吧。
yong ni zui chu de hui da zai ai wo ba
Tell me the answer you gave the very first time and love me again

没有我你怕不怕
Mei you wo ni pa bu pa
Without me are you afraid?

孤独的黑夜向谁说话
Gu du de hei ye xiang shui shuo hua
Lonely nights, whom will you talk with?

难道你真 的那么傻
Nan dao ni zhen de na me sha
Could it be that you are really so foolish?

嘿你!回过头想想我
Hei ni hui guo tou xiang xiang wo
Hey! Turn around and think of me

看着我是你的拥有
Kan zhao wo hai shi ni de yong you
See (perceive) me as one you can possess

嘿你!请珍惜你和我
Hei ni aing zhen xin ni he wo
Hey, please treasure you and me

你不能就此离去
Ni bu neng jiu ci li qu
You cannot simply leave

难道你不觉得真的可惜
Nan dao ni bu jue de zhen de ke xi
Could it be that you do not think that it is a pity

再爱我吧 再爱我 吧
Zai ai wo ba zai ai wo ba
Once again, love me; once again, love me

让我能再拥抱你一下
Rang wo neng zai yong bao ni yi xia
Let me be able to embrace you a little while

再爱我我 吧再爱我我吧
Zai ai wo ba zai ai wo ba
Once again, love me; once again love me

请给我的回答
Qing gei wo ni de hui da
Please give me a reply
**************************************************************************
Learning the meaning of words I do not understand
**************************************************************************
Here are the words that my tutor and I have singled out for explanation and for practice in writing. Writing is important because it is one of the ways in being able to recognise the word if it is seen again elsewhere. Another way I feel that would be helpful is to have an understanding of the radicals (the parts that make up each individual character). Knowing what they mean helps one to make intelligent guesses at the meaning of words.

再爱我吧

你对我已疲倦 (tired)了马?
为什么你不说话?
用你最初(your very first) 的回答在爱我 吧。
没有我你怕不怕?
孤独(lonely)的黑夜向谁说话?
难道(Could it be that)你真的那么 (foolish)
嘿你!回过头(turn back)想想(think of)我
看着(see and feel that)我是你的拥有(yours to possess)
嘿你!请珍惜(treasure)你和我
你不能就此(this)(leave)去
难道你不觉得(feel that)(really)的可惜(a pity)
再爱我我 吧 再爱我吧
让我能再拥抱(hug)你一下
再爱我我 吧再爱我我 吧
请给我的回答 (reply)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Learning Chinese my way - Method and Resources

This post documents how I have planned to learn Chinese and gives two internet websites that I have found to be useful to me.
***************************************************************************
METHOD OF LEARNING
************************************************************************************
First Step (19 April 2008)
Learning must be fun and I want to learn Chinese the fun way. My method is to learn Chinese through the lyrics of the songs of my favourite singers. I started my journey by engaging a tutor to explain the selected song to me. I am not starting from scratch as I can converse in simple Mandarin and I can read Hanyu Pinyin well enough.
As I cannot read and write Mandarin, the tutor's role would be that of a guide to help me to understand how the language works and to help me build up my vocabulary through the words in the songs. In the first session with her, we played the song 在爱我吧on my laptop.
She explained the words that I did not understand, wrote them down to show me how the characters were written correctly. She also explained some of the meanings in depth. At the end of the session, she marked out 15 words that I had to practise writing and she would give me a 'spelling' test. We ended by singing the song together. That was fun!
Second Step (Sun 20 Apr - Fri 25 Apr 2008)
I took to copying the lyrics of the song over and over again and paying attention to the difficult words. If there is one thing that I can do surprisingly to some people is that I am able to write Chinese characters using the correct strokes and steps about 90 of the time even though I have no clue what the character means.
This is the result of the years in primary school spent writing Chinese characters repeatedly through the numerous 'spelling and dictation' exercises and tests Even though I dropped the language in favour of learning Malay in Primary 5, the ability to write correctly has not left me, thank goodness.
Technically, I may be competent but not understanding the words that I write does take away the ability to appreciate them meaningfully.
Third Step
Initially I copied the lyrics writing with a pen or a pencil and filled several pages of my notebook with this song. Then I realised that as I was writing I was not sure of some of the characters. I turned to internet resources and found two very help websites that match my needs exactly using Google to do a keyword search on 'Chinese online dictionary'.
**************************************************************************
INTERNET RESOURCES
***********************************************************************************
I like about this website for two main reasons:
1 It enables me to key in the character I wish to know more about by simply keying in the character in Hanyu Pinyin producing the following results:
  • SimplifiedChinese
  • Mandarin Pinyin
  • English Definition
  • Traditional variant

2 It has a tool that enables me to type Chinese characters using Hanyu Pinyin as the input. Unlike what can be done with windows currently, this tool not only allows me to see a list of characters with the same pinyin but also the individual meanings as well.

This is really cool for me because I can now 'write' Chinese because I can choose the character that has the meaning that I want instead of being confronted with a string of characters that make no sense to me.

Writing Chinese for me is a breeze here. I had to fumble a little to get the method right. I finally realised that there are three basic steps ivolved:

  • Key in the pinyin character eg. bao and a list of characters will show up in a window simultaneously.
  • Choose the character you want by typing the number associated with the character.
  • Press spacebar and the Chinese character will appear as if by magic.

Here's another typing tool from a site called Purple culture.

The Chinese Character Dictionary

Another great site I found is the Chinese Character Dictionary. It is not really complete as some characters listed do not have any entries. What I like about it is that the characters are clear and well defined - important for me as I want to make sure that I get the strokes right.