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Introduction | Episodes |

4 Age 年龄

大家好, hi everyone welcome back to another episode of Growing up with Chinese 成长汉语.

We’ve got a good lineup of useful phrases to learn today and also you’ll all be learning how to count to ten. Actually, numbers in Chinese are relatively not complicated. So as long as you know how to count to ten, you can really count to ninety-nine. Pretty cool, huh?

All right, so last show we covered the basic ways to do introductions in Chinese. And today we’ll be continuing introductions by learning how to ask how old someone is. Now our clip from last time ended with Mike saying hello to 小明’s parents. But this scene wasn’t finished yet. How will it end? OK, let’s go back to 小明’s apartment and see just what kind of age discussion is taking place.

老师:小明,你好。
小明:老师好!

老师:你们好。 小明父母:您好。
小明:你好,我叫小明。你叫什么名字?
麦克:我叫麦克。小明,你姓什么?
小明:我姓王。
麦克:噢,王小明
麦克:叔叔、阿姨,你们好。
小明妈妈:麦克,你多大了?
麦克:阿姨,我十六岁。小明,你呢?
小明:我也十六岁。

So, 小明’s mom said “麦克, 你多大了.” 你 we should all know very well by right now it means you 你. 多 on its own means much or many 多. And 大 means big. So put it together 多大 means how big or how old. 了 makes a sentence past tense. You know 了 is one of the main reasons why my mom decided to learn Chinese, I’m very serious. 了 is used to make a sentence past tense. Tenses in English can get pretty complicated because we have to conjugate*1 verbs a lot of the time. I am I was I will be, I eat I ate I will eat, when Chinese verbs don’t change that way. 我吃 I eat, 我吃了 I ate. Now this will come up soon as a language point but I wanted to give all of you a sneak peek now because we do see the use of 了 today. So put it together 你多大了 means how old are you.

麦克:叔叔、阿姨,你们好。
小明妈妈:麦克,你多大了?

阿姨, 我十六岁. Well we know that 阿姨 means aunt and 我 means I. 十六 is sixteen the number sixteen. And 岁 denotes age. So 我十六岁 means, yup, I’m sixteen years old.

小明妈妈:麦克,你多大了?
麦克:阿姨,我十六岁

小明, 你呢? And you, 小明? 呢 in this case is what makes the sentence a question 你呢? And you? Or what about you?

我也十六岁. This one you should all be able to figure out ourselves. 也 means also. So 小明’s reply is I’m also sixteen or I’m sixteen also. 我也十六岁.

麦克:小明,你呢
小明我也十六岁

All right everybody, let’s take a look at today’s vocabulary.

We’re almost done with our coverage of pinyin, today we will be wrapping everything up by discussing finals in combination. Now what I mean by that is when a final has more than one letter. Now for the most part when two or more finals are combined, each letter keeps its original singular sound like an as in tan, i-a ya as in xia, ang a-n-g as in hang. There are a few minor adjustments for some though, so let’s highlight some of them for you right now.

OK. A and I make the ai sound just like the letter i, mai cai dai.

E and I make the ei sound as in wei, bei, dei, zei.

All right, here is another one. IAN make the sound ian as in Vienna so tian bian xian.

Now I and E make the ie sound uh like the ye in yes, xiexie bie qie.

All right, U A I. UAI is a little tricky it makes the uai sound as in huai shuai zhuai.

UI makes the uei sound as in shui hui tui dui.

UE is also a little tricky as the u makes the ü sound with e as in xue que jue.

UAN is the uan sound with most initials like tuan or huan zhuan. But, when it follows a j and x and q and some others, the ü sound comes in like xuan quan yuan juan.

OK, that just about covers pinyin. Tones are noted above each word as different tones to the different meanings of words. So don’t forget to put your tones in.

Word Book

OK so that wrapped up our pinyin explanation. Now let’s take a look at some of today’s specific vocabulary words.

  • 多 much or many. duō
  • 大 big. dà
  • 呢 used at the end of an interrogative sentence. ne
  • 了 used after a verb or adjective to indicate the completion of a real or expected change or action. le
  • 岁 referring to the age of someone as in years old. suì

Today we are spotlighting conversation topics. It can be very interesting to look at what some cultures consider taboo topics and what other cultures consider very acceptable topics for conversation.

Now we all know that in many countries, asking someone’s age can be a bit of a sensitive subject. If someone volunteers his or her age, that’s OK. But usually it’s a question that’s asked with some degree of caution. In China, it’s quite common for people be they friends or stranger to ask your age and it’s not considered impolite in the slightest*2. If you’re in China, you might also get asked what your Chinese zodiac animal is. This question is a less direct way of asking someone’s age. Now because the Chinese zodiac cycles every twelve years, it’s possible to figure out someone’s age based on his or her corresponding zodiac sign.

Now another common topic of conversation is someone’s weight. I know in many cultures especially American culture, weight is a very sensitive subject. In China, you might have someone come up and say “wow, you’ve fully gotten fatter recently,” or “oh might’ve lost weight.” Some kids will even have the nickname little fatty 小胖子. Depending on where you might be from this could come across as the biggest insult possible. But in China, what people are commenting on is your general health.

If someone says you’ve got fatter what they are really saying is that you are great you look well rested, happy and healthy. So the kids are called little fatty 小胖子, you can think of it is meaning little healthy. Now if someone says you look thin, they are expressing concern over how hard you’re working. How you might not be getting enough sleep, and so on, and so on. So in China, talking about someone’s weight can be viewed as an indirect way of inquiring about or commenting on someone’s overall state of health. And the fatter, the better.

Primer

All right everyone it’s time to switch gears. Let’s now move from our cultural discussion to our discussion on today’s language points, so let’s take a look at what they are.

多. when 多 is used in a question, it’s asking about a degree or an amount. 多大 how big or how old. 多高. 高 means high or tall, so 多高 is how high or how tall. 多远. 远 means far so 多远 is how far. As your vocabularies grow, you will be able to add 多 to a lot of the words you learn. Just remember, that when you use 多 in a question, it implies degree or amounts. Let’s look at some more examples.

  • 兰兰,你多大了?/我15岁了。
  • 小明,你今年多大啦?/我15岁了。

In today’s clip, instead of using 多大, 小明’s mom asked Mike 你几岁了. 几 is used when asking about a specific amount and usually it’s used when the amount being asked is about between two and nine. Now I’m sure you’re all thinking yeah but Mike is obviously over nine years old so why is 几 used in asking for his age. Well, 几岁 is kind of an exception because it is specifically asking about age. Usually people who are older than the person being asked will say 你几岁了. You won’t see a kid asking for a grandparent 爷爷你几岁了. 几岁 is used mostly for people who are obviously young.

  • 几岁了?/它2岁了。
  • 小朋友,你几岁了?

也 also. 我也十六岁了. The use of 也 is very similar to how we use also in English. But let’s look at some examples just so you all know what’s going on.

  • 认识你很高兴。/认识你我很高兴。
  • 你姓什么?/我姓王,你呢?/我姓王。

Review

老师:小明,你好。
小明:老师好!

老师:你们好。 小明父母:您好。
小明:你好,我叫小明。你叫什么名字?
麦克:我叫麦克。小明,你姓什么?
小明:我姓王。
麦克:噢,王小明
麦克:叔叔、阿姨,你们好。
小明妈妈:麦克,你多大了?
麦克:阿姨,我十六岁。小明,你呢?
小明:我也十六岁。

And we’re done. Today wasn’t too hard, was it? 不太难吧.

Don’t forget, you can always visit our website to review your Chinese, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, drop us a letter in feedback and I will do my best to answer any of your questions. Keep up the good work everyone, next show we will be seeing the same clip again so it should be a good review of what we covered today. 加油 everybody, see you all soon, 再见.

*1:conjugate 動詞を活用させる

*2:not ~ in the slightest 全く〜でない