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Lesson Transcript

Amber: Hey everyone, welcome back to Basic Bootcamp! Today is Basic Bootcamp number 2. I'm Amber.
Victor: 大家好,我是Victor。(Dàjiā hǎo, wǒ shì Victor.)
Amber: And today, the bootcamp is about Basic Chinese, starting with the verb for “to be” and some basic sentence structure.
Victor: This 5-part series will help you ease your way into Chinese.
Amber: We’ll go over all the basics that will really help you understand Chinese much quicker and easier.
Victor: In this lesson, you will learn how to use the all important verb 是 (shì).
Amber: 是 (shì), which is 4th tone, and it's the verb that means “to be”, and it can usually be used like the verb “to be” in English, so it will be really easy for everyone to relate to.
Victor: We’ll also go over one of the essential building blocks of learning Chinese, word order.
Amber: So no matter whether you’re in a language class, in a new country, or even in your own city, the world is so small nowadays, you can always find someone from somewhere else, so we’re going to demonstrate the verb “to be” in talking about nationalities today.
Victor: Right. So have a listen to these Chinese students talk about where they are from. And while you’re listening, try to guess their nationalities.
Amber: Yes, and I’ll give a hint that sometimes country names in Chinese are transliterations, so they will sound a little bit similar to the English word for the country.
Victor: So they’re really good for mental exercises.
Amber: Yeah, so do some mental gymnastics, you just might be able to figure out the country. Ok, let’s listen to the dialogue.
你好。 我叫宁健超。 我是中国人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Nìng Jiànchāo. Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.)
你好。 我叫子安。 我是加拿大人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Zǐ ān. Wǒ shì Jiānádàrén.)
Victor: 重复一次,慢速。(Chóngfù yīcì, màn sù.)
Amber: One more time, a little slower.
你好。 我叫宁健超。 我是中国人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Nìng Jiànchāo. Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.)
你好。 我叫子安。 我是加拿大人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Zǐ ān. Wǒ shì Jiānádàrén.)
Victor: 重复一次,加英文翻译。(Chóngfù yīcì, jiā yīngwén fānyì.)
Amber: One more time, with the English.
你好。 我叫宁健超。 我是中国人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Nìng Jiànchāo. Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.)
Hello. I'm Victor. I am Chinese.
你好。 我叫子安。 我是加拿大人。(Nǐhǎo. Wǒ jiào Zǐ ān. Wǒ shì Jiānádàrén.)
Hello. I'm Amber. I am Canadian.
Amber: So, I think one of the funnest things about learning Chinese is the variety of people that you meet from the world over learning Chinese, Victor.
Victor: Yeah, definitely! I’ve seen on Chinese TV, there are people from Africa, and they speak fluent local Sichuan dialect, it’s amazing.
Amber: It is amazing. And one thing I found very fun in China was sometimes there would be people learning from other countries who I didn't speak their language but we could all speak Chinese, so we get on the subway, maybe, five foreigners, and we’d be speaking Chinese to each other.
Victor: And some become really really good.
Amber: And there are a lot of other cool reasons as well. I remember one lady was from middle America and got interested in taichi, so she studied it and eventually opened up a school, and a bunch of us learn Chinese and go with it.
Victor: That’s great. OK now let’s take a look at the words we used in these phrases, so all our learners will be able to share where they are from.
Amber: Okay!
Victor: 中国人 (Zhōngguórén) [natural native speed]
Amber: Chinese (person)
Victor: 中国人 (Zhōngguórén) [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Victor: 中国人 (Zhōngguórén) [natural native speed]
Victor: 加拿大人 (Jiānádàrén) [natural native speed]
Amber: Canadian (person)
Victor: 加拿大人 (Jiānádàrén) [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Victor: 加拿大人 (Jiānádàrén) [natural native speed]
Amber: Cool. So some of the dialogue, we’ve already learned it from Bootcamp 1, the very beginning, which was the greeting…
Victor: 你好(nǐhǎo).
Amber: Right. And then, we also learned to say “my name is…”
Victor: Which is 我叫 (wǒ jiào). So now we move on to the nationality.
Amber: So, I think yours is more exotic than mine, Victor, so why don’t we start with you. What’s your nationality, Victor?
Victor: 中国人 (Zhōngguórén)
Amber: So let’s take this word and look at it a little bit, what do you say?
Victor: Sure.
Amber: Ok, so the last word we hear, let’s start with that one, it’s the clincher. It’s the word...
Victor: 人 (rén).
Amber: And what tone is that?
Victor: Second tone.
Amber: So 人 (rén), the pinyin is REN. The sound is not like an R in English. Can you do it for us again so we can hear the subtle difference?
Victor: 人 (rén), 人 (rén).
Amber: And this is the word for “person” or “people”.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So, your nationality, we’re guessing, is Chinese, right, Victor?
Amber: So how did you say that?
Victor: Well, the word for China is 中国 (Zhōngguó).
Amber: So 中国 (Zhōngguó), what are the tones? First tone, 中 (Zhōng)...
Victor: 国(guó) is second tone.
Amber: Okay.
Victor: So I took the word for my country, 中国 (Zhōngguó) and simply added 人 (rén) to the end.
Amber: So to express your nationality in Chinese you basically just say the country, then tack ‘person’ onto the end. Right? So, literally, it’s “China person.”
Victor: Right. 中国人 (Zhōngguórén)
Amber: Yes.
Victor: Ok, so now your turn.
Amber: Yes, me! OK well I am Canadian. So… how do we say Canada?
Victor: Well, this one is nice because it’s a kind of a transliteration, and it’s 加拿大 (Jiānádà).
Amber: Yeah, if you stretch your ear, you can hear the Canada in that, right?
Victor: 加拿大 (Jiānádà), Canada.
Amber: Yeah, at least it rhymes. So, what are the tones on that?
Victor: 加(Jiā) is first tone, 拿(ná) is second tone, and 大(dà) is fourth tone.
Amber: Right, so now, just like you, all I do is add the 人(rén), to the end,”people”, to make it “Canadian”.
Victor: Right, and it’s 加拿大人(Jiānádàrén).
Amber: 加拿大人(Jiānádàrén). OK, now of course we all know that Canada is such an influential nation and incredible country that everyone will need to know how to say it in Chinese, however, maybe we should give our neighbours to the south a little mention, Victor. The small country of America.
Victor: Yeah, I think there are a lot of Americans learning Chinese as well.
Amber: That’s right, so why don’t we give them the word for “America,” Victor.
Victor: Yeah, so that’s actually easier than Canada, it’s 美国(Měiguó).
Amber: The first word is 美(Měi), it’s third tone.
Victor: It also kind of sounds like the word America, like, 美(Měi), America. A little bit?
Amber: Does it? I think we’re dreaming a little, but let’s just pretend that it does. Ok, and the second word is 国(guó), just like 中国 (Zhōngguó). 国(guó) is second tone.
Victor: Right. 美国(Měiguó) is “America”.
Amber: And so, if you want to say “American,” we just do the same thing, we add the 人(rén). How do you say it?
Victor: 美国人(Měiguórén).
Amber: Right. 美国人(Měiguórén).
Victor: 美(Měi) actually means “pretty” or “beauty.”
Amber: Oh, that’s true. “Beautiful country,” basically, is what it means.
Hey, the Chinese named it, so they must thought that it’s beautiful. So, how about another one, how about China’s neighbour? There’s a lot of Japanese people learning Chinese as well.
Victor: Yeah. Japan is 日本(rìběn).
Amber: Right, and what are the tones on that?
Victor: 日(rì) is 4th tone, and 本(běn) is 3rd tone.
Amber: And in case you can’t really hear what pinyin that is, it’s R-I. 日(rì). It’s a hard sound to make.
Victor: 日(rì), R-I, and 本(běn) is B-E-N. So
Amber: And then you add on the 人(rén)
Victor: 日本人(rìběnrén).
Amber: That’s “Japanese.”
Victor: Yes.
Amber: Ok, we don’t want to forget, just like how Canada is in the shadow of America, Korea should not be in the shadow of Japan. We must mention Korea.
Victor: Definitely not. Yeah, Korea is 韩国(Hánguó).
Amber: 韩国(Hánguó). What tones are those?
Victor: 韩(Hán) is second tone, 国(guó) is also second tone.
Amber: So to make a Korean person, we add the 人(rén).
Victor: 韩国人(Hánguórén), “Korean”.
Amber: Good!

Lesson focus

Amber: Ok, so now we’re going to get into a little bit of the word order that we heard in our dialogue. So, the sentence talking about nationality, what was it again, Victor?
Victor: 我是中国人。(Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.)
Amber: Right, it gives us a little insight into basic Chinese word order in sentences. And that is the word order being Subject - Verb - Object.
Victor: Yes, here 我(Wǒ) is the subject, of course, ‘I’.
Amber: Yes, it means “I”. Then we have the verb ‘to be’ which comes next. In Chinese, it’s...
Victor: 是(shì)
Amber: So so far we have…
Victor: 我是 (Wǒ shì)
Amber: So we have the Subject, the Verb, and next is the Object.
Victor: Country + the 人(rén). So it’s 中国人(Zhōngguórén.)
Amber: Right, so literally in English, it’s “I”, “to be,” which is “am,” and then “Chinese person.” So we can see the subject 我(wǒ) - 是(shì) - 中国人(Zhōngguórén), is Subject - Verb - Object.
Victor: Now we can try out this structure in other sentences.
Amber: Ok, so let’s try it with different pronouns. How would you say ‘We’re American.’
Victor: Well, the pronoun for we is 我们(Wǒmen). So we would simply say 我们是美国人。(Wǒmen shì Měiguórén.)
Amber: OK, so 我们(wǒmen) is third tone, neutral tone.
Victor: Yes, 我们(wǒmen).
Amber: For the word “we.” Then the verb “to be,” 是(shì), and then “American,” 美国人 (Měiguórén).
Victor: Right.
Amber: Ok, so “We are American”. How about if I were to say “you are American.”
Victor: The word for “you” is 你(nǐ), just like the 你(nǐ) in 你好(nǐhǎo).
Amber: Oh yeah, we’ve heard it before. So how about I’ll try… 你是美国人。(Nǐ shì Měiguórén.)
Victor: Yep, it’s 你是美国人。(Nǐ shì Měiguórén.)
Amber: “You are American.” And how about “they are American”?
Victor: 他们是美国人。(Tāmen shì Měiguórén.)
Amber: The word for “they” is 他们(tāmen), so first tone, neutral tone. Well, we are pretty lucky as English speakers, because this mirrors English word order to a tee..
Victor: Right, Chinese and English word order crossover a lot.
Amber: Yeah, so that’s encouraging.


Victor: So we hope everybody isn’t too tired after this bootcamp!
Amber: Yeah! I think we’re pretty nice bootcamp instructors, Victor. We’re not too hard. We don’t like yell at anybody or anything like that.
Victor: I’ll start yelling in Chinese.
Amber: We’ll teach you guys later, yelling in Chinese. So keep practicing, and you’ll have these down pat in no time.
Amber: So victor, let’s listen to our dialogue again.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: See you next time, 再见(zàijiàn!)
Victor: Bye!