Saturday, July 04, 2009

Optimistic Chinese

When you talk about making plans with your free time (to go to the night market, go on vacation, meet a friend...) you often say you will go somewhere to "you wan"- which literally translates as "have fun" but sometimes will translate as "play" but in a grown-up way.

It's funny because in English, if I'm going to, say, Kenting, a beach town, I'd say that I will go there to relax, go swimming, get away from it all... but I can't really plan to have fun. I want to, of course, but we'll just see if I have fun when I get there. But in Chinese I just say, "I'm going to Kenting to have fun." The funny part of it is, the Taiwanese take having fun pretty seriously. And how would you know you're having fun unless you're in a big crowd of people, all shouting at once? Yeah.

Another one is this verb "zhao," which I would translate as "searching for" or "looking for", like you zhao a road or your pencil or something. But if a student is, say, rummaging through their bag, and I ask them what they're doing, they always say "I'm finding my pencil," and I know they're thinking of that verb in Chinese. THe power of positive thinking, eh?

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