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Introduction | Episodes |

8 Having dinner 用餐

Hi everybody, 大家好, 你们知道现在几点吗? Do you all know what time it is? That’s right, it’s time for another episode of Growing up with Chinese 成长汉语.

你们吃饭了吗? Have you all eaten? I hope so. Because everyone’s brains will work better when they’ve all had nourishment and that includes Mike and 小明.

Now today we are going to be focusing on some dining phrases again very useful Chinese vocabulary to have, especially if you don’t come from a country where chopsticks are the main eating utensil*1.

Now, just for all of you have fair warning, today’s clip has a lot of new phrases in it, seven, to be precise. We’ll be covering half of them today, and the other half next time. But you will be seeing the clip in its entirety. Don’t let it fluster*2 you though, because we’ll go over half of them today, and half of them next time. So let’s check it out.





Dinner looks good doesn’t it. I love Chinese food. And I happen to know that 小明’s mom is a really good cook. Anyway, I said earlier that our topic for today is dining related, so let’s now take a look at what was said in that category.

小明、麦克吃饭. 小明, Mike eat. Or rather, it’s time to eat.

你会用筷子吗? Can you use chopsticks? 会用 means can use, 筷子 means chopsticks. Add a 吗 on the end of the sentence becomes a question. 你会用筷子吗? Can you use chopsticks?

Now remember how I told all of you that one of the main reasons why my mom decided to learn Chinese, was because verbs are unconjugated right, in another words, they don’t change depending on the tense you’re speaking in.

Well, the other main reason why she decided to learn Chinese was because singular and plural nouns do not change. Think about English first. One noun, two nouns, one knife, many knives, one person, many people, gets kinds of crazy doesn’t it.

Well, the way singular and plural works in Chinese is just by specifying how many. Let’s look at chopsticks 筷子. Now the measure word for chopsticks in English is pair right, a pair of chopsticks. In Chinese it’s 双 which means pair. 一双筷子 one pair of chopsticks, 三双筷子 three pairs of chopsticks, 七双筷子 seven pairs of chopsticks. The only thing that changes in Chinese is the number of chopsticks. Pretty cool, huh?


没关系. This phrase deserves a bit of attention as you will hear it very frequently. It means “that’s OK,” “no worries,” “doesn’t matter.” It can be used in place of*3 you’re welcome. 谢谢你, 没关系. Thank you, no problem. It can be used also after an apology. 对不起 I’m sorry, 没关系 That’s OK. Or it can be used like in today’s clip, 小明’s mom’s response to Mike saying that he can’t really use chopsticks with 没关系 no worries, it doesn’t matter.


我们洗碗吧. Let us wash the dishes. 洗 on its own is wash as in wash the dishes, laundry, wash yourself, etc. 碗 means bowl, but it also means general dishes depending on the context. So, 我们洗碗吧 is let us wash the dishes.


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

Today’s vocabulary list isn’t too long, so let’s take a look at our first word.

  • 会 can. huì
  • 有 have, to have. yǒu
  • 太 too as in t-o-o, too. tài
  • 吧 used at the end of a sentence to indicate consultation, suggestion, request or command. ba
  • 洗 wash. xǐ
  • 刀 knife. dāo
  • 叉 fork. chā
  • 碗 bowl or dishes. wǎn
  • 筷子 chopsticks. kuài zi

Now the radical we’re going to be talking about today is taken from the 筷 of 筷子. So let’s look at the character and then break it up.

The character looks like this. That’s the 筷 of 筷子. Now broken up that’s its radical… and that’s the other component of the character. It’s pretty isn’t it. Now this radical up here is called a 竹字头 or the bamboo radical. And the actual character for bamboo looks like this. Can you see the resemblance between the two? Now chopsticks are often made out of bamboo so make sense that the character for chopsticks would have the bamboo radical, doesn’t it?

Now, below the radical is the character for 筷. It’s this part right here, that’s 快. So you can see what this example that the 筷 sound of 筷子 takes its hint from 快 down here. And the radical gives the character it’s meaning. Now many characters that have the bamboo radical all have something to do with plants or plant life, either directly or indirectly. For example, 箱子 means box or trunk and often times it’s made out of wood. 风筝 means kite or many kite frames are made out flexible wood and sometimes even bamboo. 笋 is a bamboo shoot. So 竹字头 is our radical of the day.

Thing is*4 we’re on the topic dining today, we thought spotlighting eating and table manners in China would be fun. And we’ll start with 筷子.

For those of you watching who typically eat with a knife and fork, I’m sure you’ve all been taught the polite ways in which to hold your fork, hold your knife, and how to rest them on your plate, and on and on and on.

Now chopstick manners are no different although have to say they’re much simpler. Now in most informal settings, you either have a stand where you rest your chopsticks when you’re not holding them or you lay them across your bowl or dish.

Now, never stick them straight up into your bowl. It has a terrible meaning. Basically, it resembles an incense*5 burner with incense sticking out. As seen that is commonly found in funerals in China. So if you stick your chopsticks straight up in your bowl, you are saying that you wish ill on the people you’re eating with. Not good.

What I consider to be the best part of eating Chinese food. It’s all placed in the middle of the table. Usually have a little plate of a bowl in front of you and you take from the plates of food in the center one by at a time. I love it because when I eat Western food and have to put on my food on my plate at once either I don’t take enough or eat too much. In China, you can eat straight from the dishes in the middle of the table so you never get too much, or too little. It’s wonderful.

OK, it’s time to move on from our topic of dining to the topic of grammar. So let’s look at today’s language points.

会. 他会用筷子吗? Let’s take a look at 会 here. It means can. It’s used before a verb and implies ability. So here 会用 means can use. 会说 can speak. 我们会说中文. We can speak Chinese. Now, to make the sentence negative, we use 不. So if you want to say we can’t speak Chinese, it would be 我们不会说中文. Now if you want to say someone is really good at something, like he is really good at telling stories you say 他很会讲故事. 很 means very, so if you think of 会 as in having the ability, 很会 means to be very able or to be very good at something. Let’s look at some more examples.

  • 兰兰,你打篮球吗?/打篮球? 我不会
  • 麦克,你读这首诗吗?/床前明月光……什么地上……我不会。/没关系,我教你。

All right, so 小明’s dad was the one to ask Mike “麦克, 你会用筷子吗.” And Mike’s reply was 我不太会用 not really. Mike could have said 我不会用 which would have implied that he does not know how to use chopsticks at all. 不太会 is slightly softer. Just like the difference between no and not really. So 太 implies degree, 太好 wonderful or fabulous. 不太好 not so great, not so good. 太高 too high. 不太高 not too high.

  • 兰兰,你看那条裙子好看吗?/我不太喜欢
  • 小明,我考了98分。小明,你呢?/嘿嘿,我考得不太好

And last but not least*6 吧 has come up again. This time in the context of washing the dishes. 我们洗碗吧. Let us wash the dishes, OK? Again, 吧 here turns what is being said into a suggestion which is why 小明’s mom responds with 好啊 OK.

  • 喂,是兰兰吗?/噢,麦克啊,我是兰兰。/兰兰,我们去图书馆?/现在吗? 对不起,现在不行。下午三点?/好的。

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 are 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’ll be seeing the some clip again so it should be a good review of what we covered today. 加油 everybody, see you all soon. 再见.

*1:utensil 台所用品

*2:fluster 動揺させる

*3:in place of 〜の代わりに

*4:thing is 肝心なのは

*5:incense お香

*6:last but not least 忘れてはならないのが