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17 Transportation


大家好, it’s time for another episode of Growing up with Chinese. 欢迎收看今天的成长汉语. Thanks for joining us today.

Last time we talked about making phone calls in Chinese. Today we are going to be focusing on transportation.

Now in the United States along with many other countries, when kids live too far away from school, they have the options of taking a school bus. And most public schools in China do not offer this service. But that’s mostly because China has quite a developed public transportation system.

Take 北京 for example. There’s the subway, public buses, taxis there’re even bike lanes on most every road so that people can bike virtually anywhere.

So today, 小明 and Mike are making their way to school. Let’s see how that evolves.

小明:麦克,快起床! 快起床! 我们睡过了。





Oh no, it’s never nice when you sleep in by mistake especially if you have to be somewhere at a specific time. But 小明 was definitely full of ideas on different ways to get to school. Let’s take a look at some of what was said.

麦克, 快起床, 快起床, 我们睡过头了. Mike quick get up, quick get up, we’ve overslept. 睡过头 is the phrase overslept.

你平时怎么去学校? How do you usually get to school. 平时 usually or typically. 怎么 in this case, makes it a question functioning as “how.” 去学校 get to school or go to school. 你平时怎么去学校?

小明麦克,快起床! 快起床! 我们睡过了


我平时先坐公交车. I usually take the bus first, 再倒地铁 and then switch to the subway. There is a sentence pattern here. 先 something 再 something. First something, and then something. We will go over this pattern in just a bit. 倒 means to switch or change, so 我平时先坐公交车. I usually take the bus first, 再倒地铁 and then switch to the subway.


对不起, 我不太认识, 你能帮我指路吗? I’m sorry, I don’t know where that is. Can you give me directions? 指路 is to give directions but it literally means to point the road. If you point the road or point out the way, you are giving directions, right?



咱们可以坐到东单站转五号线. We can take this line to 东单 station and then switch to line five. 转 means to turn or switch. It comes up twice today actually, one is in the context of turn right 右转, and the other is in this sentence. 转五号线 switch to line five.


OK, everyone let’s check out what we have lined up for today’s vocabulary.

OK first off, let’s take a look at some specific vocabulary.

  • 怎么 used to inquire about nature, condition, cause, etc, and another meaning is how. zěn me
  • 晚 late. wǎn
  • 坐 travel by bus, train, plane, etc. zuò
  • 到 arrive, reach, used as a complemental adverb indicating the result of an action. dào
  • 学校 school. xué xiào
  • 公交车 public bus. gōng jiāo chē
  • 地铁 subway, metro. dì tiě

Today we are going to be looking at the radical for dirt or earth. It’s in two of our vocabulary words today 地 of 地铁 and 坐. So, let’s take a look at these two characters. Oops, wonder where that came from.

地 ... and 坐 .... Now, we’ve seen the radical at the top of the character, you are still remember the bamboo radical, right? Well, we find the dirt radical on the left in 地 and on the bottom in 坐.

Now the actual character for dirt or earth is 土 and it looks like this. So, quite similar between all three. Then you can see really it doesn’t change much depending on whether it’s on the left, or the bottom, or on its own. Now the character for 地 on its own means ground. And ground certainly does have a lot of dirt in it doesn’t it. OK, let’s look at 坐.

In today’s context, 坐 is used to indicate travel by some mode of transportation. But it also happens to have the meaning of sit or to sit. Now if you think about it, you usually sit when you travel. So 坐 having these two meanings makes a lot of sense really. Now check this out. This, here, let me switch a color, is the character for person 人 right?

So we can see that 坐 this character is made up of two people, and the character for dirt or earth. So there’re two people sitting on the ground and the character means sit, fun isn’t it!


All right time to move from transportation and high speed trains over to some language points. Let’s take a look what we have lined up for today.

怎么. 你平时怎么去学校. How do you usually get to school? 怎么 is used to ask “how.” It comes before a verb, which in this case is 去 to go somewhere. So some examples of this paring are 怎么说 how to say. 怎么想 how do you think or what do you think. 怎么写 how to write. Today though we are asking how to get to school which is 怎么去学校?

  • 哎呀,这道题太难了,怎么做啊?/你自己想想吧,我也不太会。

Here is an important pattern but thankfully, it’s not too difficult. 先 ... 再 …. First, and then. 我平时先坐公交车. I usually take the bus first, 再到地铁 and then switch to the subway. 先 is quite easy to use. It means first in the context of a series of actions. 再 functions like “and then.” I wash my face first and then I go to bed. 我先洗脸再睡着.

再 implies that the first action has finished or will finished before the next action takes place. Now after all, you can’t wash your face and sleep all at the same time right? ...maybe some people can but, in any case. The pattern we’re looking at here is 先 something something 再 something something.

  • 小明,吃饭啦!/妈妈,我正在写作业。
  • 噢,放假喽。小明,我们明天去划船,去看电影,怎么样?/太好了,兰兰,我都等不及啦!

咱们. 咱们 is equivalent to 我们 or us but it has a slightly more specific meaning. 咱们 includes the speaker and the listener or listeners. And it’s mostly used in spoken Chinese as opposed to written Chinese. 咱们, us.

  • 今天天气真暖和,咱们去放风筝吧!/可是今天一点儿风都没有,怎么放风筝啊?
  • 小明,你们知道吗? 我考了全年级第一。/是嘛! 你真是咱们班的骄傲啊。

Congratulations everyone we’re just about done for the day. 咱们先看一封信, 再说再见, 好吗? Let’s first look at a letter and then say good bye, OK?

Now we have a letter today from Ellen of the USA who is kind enough to send in a joke related to Chinese. It’s a play on words*1. OK, here goes. “quack-quack, quack-quack, quack-quack.” Do you know that is? It’s a peeking duck. Not a Peking duck as in Beijing duck but peeking, a peeking duck.

OK, thanks for your joke Ellen. Please keep your thoughts and comments or jokes coming our way. I really do love hearing from all of you. 谢谢你们的收看, thanks for tuning into today’s show, see you all next time. 加油 everyone, 再见.

*1:play on words 言葉遊び、ダジャレ