Monday, February 05, 2007

Mandarin Lessons: Numbers

Today's Mandarin lesson is about numbers.

The numbers 1-10 are extremely important. Once you know them, you can, of course, count and tell time. Unlike romance languages and English, where you have to learn different words for days of the week and months in a year, the Chinese base these words on the number of the day within the week, and the month within the year. Example: the word for 1, is yi. Monday is xingqi yi. January is yiyue.

It's worth mentioning here that the number two is a tricky, tricky number. It's tricky because it is pronounced er, but if you talk about 2 of something, the number is pronounced liang.

While we are still talking numbers, I must admit I am currently fascinated with "measure words." You can't just say two elephants. You have to use the word zuo (which indicates you are talking about big things, like buildings or elephants - the example given in my phrase book) between the word two and the word elephants.

Other measure words include ba (chairs, knives, teapots, tools or implements with handles), bei (drinking receptacles), zhang (flat things - tickets, envelopes), duo (flowers - blossoms, not plants), tiao (long things - fish, snakes, rivers), zhi (non-descript animals - cats, dogs, chickens - I kid you not this is the example in my phrase book) and ke (trees).

I have to wonder who came up with that idea. Seriously.

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