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14 Directions 方位


大家好, 欢迎收看成长汉语. Thanks for tuning into another episode of Growing up with Chinese.

Are you all ready to get down*1 to work today? We are going to let our discussion of tenses in Chinese rest for a little while. They will be coming up in our dialogues as we go along, so extra practice won’t be an issue.

Today our focus is going to be directions. Now it can be quite interesting to look at how different cultures use directional vocabulary. In America, we use left and right a lot. In China, north, south, east and west are used equally as much. 北京’s layout is quite square. So it’s never hard to get your directional bearings*2 here. And same goes for many other Chinese cities.

Now let’s dive into today’s clip. And continue our discussion of directional vocabulary in just a minute. Let’s go.

妈:小明,都几点了。你怎么才回来啊? 麦克等你了半天了。

麦克:小明,超市在哪儿? 远不远?
麦克:对了,邮局呢? 在什么地方?
麦克:那你一会儿能带我去邮局吗? 我想给我朋友寄张明信片。

麦克刚到北京. 你带他到周围转转, 顺便买一些苹果. Mike just got to 北京. You should take him out and walk around and while you are at it, you can buy some apples. 带 is the verb to take be it a person or a thing. 顺便 means while you are at it.

包在我身上. This is the set expression that means “leave it to me.” Its literal translation means “the bag is on my body” or in other words, I’ll take care of it.

妈:小明,都几点了。你怎么才回来啊? 麦克等你了半天了。

超市在哪儿? 远不远? Where is the supermarket? Is it far? Now did you guys catch the use of 在 in this sentence. 超市在哪儿? Where is the supermarket?

在 here serves the same function as what we talked about last lesson: something + 在 + somewhere. In this case, because Mike doesn’t know where the supermarket is, 哪儿 or where functions as place. 不远不远, 很近. 就在那边. It’s not far at all, it’s very close. It’s right over there. 不远不远, 很近. Not far not far, very close.

麦克:小明超市在哪儿? 远不远

对了, 邮局呢? 在什么地方? Oh by the way, what about the post office? Where is it located? Remember 呢? It functions as a question marker asking what about. 对了 is used to express that you just thought of something you want to ask like by the way. 在什么地方? Where is it located? 地方 means place or location.

得走半小时左右. Walking it will take around half an hour.

麦克:对了,邮局呢? 在什么地方
麦克:那你一会儿能带我去邮局吗? 我想给我朋友寄张明信片。

OK everyone, let’s look at today’s vocabulary.

Our radical for today is a lot of fun but before we get into talking about it, let’s go over some specific vocabulary.

  • 等 wait, to wait. děng
  • 刚 just. gāng
  • 带 to take, bring or carry. dài
  • 顺便 incidentally, in passing. shùn biàn
  • 远 far. yuǎn
  • 近 near. jìn
  • 寄 to post. jì
  • 北 north. běi
  • 超市 supermarket. chāo shì

Our radical for the day is another fun one. It’s the radical for movement and we can see it in the characters 远 … and 近 … so far and near or close. Now let’s take a look at their components. Let me point out the radical which is here and here. So it’s the same for both characters. This is the movement radical. It kind of resembles a person moving, doesn’t it?

OK, well many characters that have to do with distance or some kind of movement use this radical. And just to let you all know*3, this character on its own here is 元. And this one is 斤. So again we see two characters with the radical that gives meaning, movement radical, and the components that gives it its sound. 远, 近.


Many cultures have what can be considered their traditional living space. Many native American tribes in the United States have a traditional living in teepees*4. Nomads in various regions live or used to live intensive all shapes and sizes. And Alaskan natives lived in igloos*5 or ice huts*6.

In China, one of the most well known traditional living spaces is the courtyard house otherwise known as the 四合院. 四合院 can be found all over China. And some of the earliest 四合院 can be traced back to the western 周 period of Chinese history. That’s one thousand one hundred twenty-two to two fifty-six BCE. Now 四合院 are collection of houses arranged in a square hence the 四 or four in its Chinese name. And in the center is the courtyard.

Typically, the courtyard house is built on a north-south east-west axis with the entrance facing south or southeast. Now historically, a typical 四合院 has a screen wall just inside the entrance. Its purpose is twofold*7. One it gives the inner courtyard privacy if the outer doors are open. And two, it keeps evil spirits from entering the compound*8.

Now once inside, the layout of a courtyard house can be broken down into the following rooms. The building positioned north and facing south is the main house or 正房 in Chinese. It’s usually the biggest house of the courtyard and is reserved for the patriarch*9 or matriarch*10 of the family. The building that connects to the main building but face east and west are called 厢房. The younger generations of a family would live in these houses. The last building or 倒房 is the one that faces north. Now this is the least desirable house of the courtyard, and in history it was usually reserved for family servants.

All right, so that concludes our discussion on the layout of the Chinese courtyard houses and now it’s time to talk about the layout of some grammar. So let’s take a look at today’s language points.

超市在哪儿? We’ve covered this before but it’s always good to go over things again and review. 哪儿 and 哪 function differently. 哪 on its own is used this way. 哪个人是Mike? Which person is Mike. 哪 asks which, 哪儿 asks where. 哪儿 can also be changed to 哪里, they are exactly the same. Whether you say 哪儿 or 哪里 mostly just depends on your preference. 超市在哪儿? 超市在哪里?

  • 劳驾,请问,最近的邮局在哪儿?/噢,前面就有一个。您往前走,第一个路口向右转。
  • 小明,你去哪儿了? 让我好找啊。/怎么了兰兰? 有事儿吗?

远不远? I love this pattern. It’s an affirmative negative question. Mike could have simply said “远吗?” which is like asking “far?” Instead he says “远不远?” You can use an adjective or a verb in a respective affirmative negative states for this pattern. It looks like this. A不A, 远不远, 好不好, 走不走. Are we going to leave or not. If your subject is a two character word, the same pattern stays, but you say AB不AB 喜欢不喜欢? Do you like it? Or not. It can also be said like this A不AB 喜不喜欢?

  • 小明,你看! 这是妈妈送我的生日礼物,漂亮不漂亮?/我看看。哎呀,真漂亮!
  • 小明,你还在打篮球啊,累不累啊?/不累,玩儿多长时间都不累。

就在那边. We’re clear on 在’s function in this phrase, so let’s take a look at 就. In this context, it acts as a word of emphasis kind of like how we might say in English it’s right over there. Saying it’s over there has the same meaning but one is a bit more emphatic. 就 functions this way. 我不看. I won’t look. 我就不看. I really won’t look. Let’s look at some examples.

  • 小明,你陪我去商场逛逛。好不好?/哎呀,妈,我不想去。/走吧。去一个小时。/那好吧。
  • 小明,我给你介绍一下。她叫小红。/小红? 她和你长得真像!/呵呵,那当然了。小红是我的表妹*11

Well I don’t know about you guys, but my head is now completely filled up with directions and locations. But I guess it’s OK seeing as we’ve just about run out of time for today.

Now here is a letter from Sophie in the Netherlands that I want to read to all of you before we go.

“Can you go over when to use ni and when to use nin when speaking to people?”

OK I know I have said that 你 is informal for you and 您 is the formal you in Chinese. You can also think of it this way. 您 is a way to show your respect for someone. If you think about the character, it has a heart radical at the bottom. So you are using your heart to respect someone when you say 您 kind of like the way in the United States when we sing the national anthem*12, we put a hand over our heart. Your heart is involved so it’s a form of respect. So when you want to show your respect to someone, you use 您. I hope that helps, Sophie. Thanks for your thoughts.

Now until next time everyone, don’t forget to review on our website, and we will see you next time. 好不好? 好. Bye bye.

*1:get down 始める、本気で取りかかる

*2: (directional) bearing 方向感覚

*3:just to let you know お知らせまでに

*4:teepee アメリカ先住民の円錐型可搬住居

*5:igloo カナダ先住民の氷でできた小屋


*7:twofold 二重の

*8:compound 屋敷

*9:patriarch 男家長

*10:matriarch 女家長

*11:表妹 (父の姉妹の娘または母の兄弟姉妹の娘で自分より年下の)いとこ

*12:anthem 讃歌