Saturday, 11 August 2012

Inuksuit and Other Similarities

Part of my studies here includes reading and writing traditional characters. As I accustom myself to a new way of writing I find it interesting how many of the characters remind me of something completely different then their original meaning.

The number six pronounced liù () reminds me of an Inuit Inuksuk.

The pronunciation for buy is mǎi () which sounds like “my”. So whenever anyone asks me what I want to buy I feel like I am taking something that is personally theirs.

The word for look is kàn () which you repeat to add emphasis; I always want to break out into a French song whenever I hear this said more than once.

To say come you use the word lái () which is spoken as “lie”. This was hard for my brain to wrap around at first because I thought it made me sound very accusatory.

Lastly the word for we, whose spelling is equivalent to female humans, is wǒmen (我們). I secretly find it hilarious that when I’m in the company of guys and girls, and we are telling a friend that we are on our way, we might say wǒmen láile (我們来了). It’s a silly thing to find amusing, but I do, and perhaps this will brighten any particular down on her luck feminist’s day.

Something else I’ve had to get used to is counting large numbers in Chinese. I never liked math but I love economics, and it turns out I enjoy counting ridiculously high amount of sums in Chinese. I am just preparing for my first pay-check you see.

It turns out when you count hundred-millions, ten thousands, and thousands they use a different way of organizing their numbers. Simply put instead of clumping numbers into groups of three’s they use groups of fours.

one thousand 1,000
ten thousand 10,000
one hundred thousand 100,000
one million 1,000,000
ten million 10,000,000
one hundred million 100,000,000
One thousand 1000=一千
one ten thousand 1,0000 = 
ten, ten thousands 10,0000 = 
one hundred ten thousands 100,0000 = 
one thousand ten thousands 1000,0000 = 
One ten million 1,0000,0000=一億

I’m skipping the nitty-gritty details, but you can tell how by organize their numbers differently it changes how you count them. Other than knowing the basics of counting 1-10 you will need the measure word for one hundred Bǎi (), one thousand Qiān () ten thousand Wàn (), and hundred million Yì (). If you seriously want to give it a try I recommend this English Chinese conversion calculator it’s super helpful.

Enjoy learning how to count high volumes of numbers you will never need in daily life unless you are very rich, very bored, or have a government job counting the population of China- you may need more measured words, and declassified documents for that, but it’s still a possibility.



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