Celebrating New Zealand Chinese Language Week 2016 新西兰中文周

The Chinese language has a reputation for being one of the most difficult languages in the world to master. If you have learned Chinese, you can literally talk to nearly 1.2 billion people, which is around 16% of the world’s population.

To prepare you for New Zealand Chinese Language Week 2016 next week (12-18 September), I thought these words and phrases might guide you into the wonderful and rather complex world of Mandarin Chinese.

About the Chinese language

Cover of My first Mandarin Chinese phrasesPinyin is the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet.

Four tones of Mandarin Chinese – each Pinyin has four tones and each tone often represents one or more characters, this is probably one of the hardest parts of learning Mandarin Chinese.

Basic words and phrases

English Character Pinyin Tones
Hello 你好 nǐ hǎo Both 3rd  – falling then rising
Thank you 谢谢 xiè xiè Both 4th tone – falling
Goodbye 再见 zài jiàn Both 4th tone- falling
Free (no charge) 免费 miǎn fèi 3rd+4th – Falling rising + falling
One 1st tone – high & level
Two èr 4th tone – falling
Three sān 1st tone – high & level
Okay 好的 hǎo de 3rd + no tone – falling then rising + no tone (short sound)
Christchurch 基督城 jī dū chéng 1st+1st+2nd – high & level + high & level + rising
Library/Libraries 图书馆 tú shū guǎn 2nd +1st+3rd – rising + high & level + falling then rising
Useful phrases
Hen gao xing ren shi ni!    很高兴认识你!  Nice to meet/know you!
Xin nian kuai le!         新年快乐!     Happy New Year!
Wo hen xi huan!         我很喜欢!     I really like it!
Yi lu ping an!            一路平安!     Have a safe journey!
Shen ti jian kang!        身体健康!            Wish you good health!
Wan shi ru yi!           万事如意!     Everything goes well as your wish!

Traditional and Simplified Chinese

Traditional and Simplified Chinese refer to the written text of Chinese characters. Traditional characters, as the name suggests, had traditionally been used for many years since ancient China. Nowadays they are most commonly used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Simplified characters evolved and were adopted after the establishment of today’s P. R. China in 1949, so you could call it a relatively “modern form”.  They are mainly used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. Here is a quick comparisons of both forms:

Traditional Simplified

The debate on the use of traditional and simplified Chinese characters is ongoing. Supporters from both sides would argue over the political and cultural implications, as well as practicality and personal preferences.

Chinese language resources at Christchurch City Libraries:

New Zealand Chinese Language Week events at Christchurch City Libraries

Tai chi
Head along to a Tai Chi demonstration at Papanui Library during NZ Chinese Language Week

There are a number of Chinese-themed events taking place at our libraries during New Zealand Chinese Language Week, including bilingual storytimes, a tai chi demonstration and fun craft activities.

See our online calendar for New Zealand Chinese Language Week events

读书破万卷, 下笔如有神 (Ample reading produces fluent writing)杜甫

Yang Song
Māori and Cultural Services

Celebrate Chinese New Year at Christchurch City Libraries

Our 2016 Year of the Monkey celebrations at Christchurch City Libraries are underway! There are fun activities for the Chinese New Year, including:

Year of the monkey

  • Library scavenger hunt – quizzes, Chinese Zodiac Challenge and lantern riddles: simple quizzes to get to know your library, make a quest on the Chinese Zodiac, solve the Chinese lantern riddles to get your brain exercised.
  • Chinese New Year Colouring in: great for adults and kids.

  • A display on researching Chinese family history in New Zealand – interesting historical photos, articles from family history databases, research done by library family history expert – looking into the life of early Chinese settlers in New Zealand.
  • Bilingual storytelling: bilingual stories from library staff on Chinese New Year, learn simple Mandarin and get your body moving.
  • Family Fun Day

Start with a smile :)

Start with a Smile LogoNoticed the Start with a Smile campaign on billboards around town or in the media and wondered what it was all about?

We all know that the face of our city is changing. Newcomers have moved here from the Philippines, China, Ireland, Fiji, Great Britain, India or even Wellington… Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce is leading this campaign to make newcomers feel welcome and encourage them to stay.

What’s the easiest way to welcome someone and make them feel at home? Start with a smile!

Central Library Peterborough will be the first library to host the Smile Couch on Monday 23 November and Tuesday 24 November. This is a great opportunity to to sit on the couch, grab a conversation starter card (located in the couch), and get talking.

Start with a smile poster

So why not come join us at Central Library Peterborough and share your smile? (You can also enjoy our collections, including our World Languages collections, and fantastic Star Wars display).

Want to know more?

NZ Chinese Language Week – The Wu Xing (five-element theory) of Chinese characters

Kia ora koutou, da jia hao 大家好 !

This week (7 to 13 September 2015) is New Zealand Chinese Language Week. To celebrate this occasion, I would like to share some information about the Wu Xing (five-element theory) of Chinese characters.

The Wu Xing refers to the five natural elements – Wood ( ), Fire ( huǒ), Earth ( ), Metal ( jīn), and Water ( shuǐ). This philosophical concept has been used to provide explanation for phenomena across many different fields, such as Chinese astrology, Feng Shui, health and medicine. The dynamic relationships among the five elements are essential, known as “mutual generation 相生” and “mutual overcoming 相克”.

Chinese calligraphy - Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, Flickr P1040956.JPG
Chinese calligraphy – Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at Upper Riccarton Library, Flickr, P1040956.JPG

Without trying to explain the whole complexity of Wu Xing, let’s use the Wu Xing application in the Chinese language as an example. Each Chinese character belongs to one of the five elements, determined by how it is written and its origin.

I still remember how hard it was to try to find a good name combination for my kids. Firstly I had to identify their preferred element by searching in the Lunar Calendar using their time and date of birth. Of course their having been born in the southern hemisphere made it even more complicated as the Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the northern hemisphere climate.

Then I had to find the characters to go with my surname to have the “mutual generation” effect. After intensive research I had a pool of characters I could use to form the name and then it was time to put them together and look at the visual and sound effect. There are normally a few things to consider from here: simplicity of writing, pleasant intonation, homophonic sounds, meaning of each character and combined meaning, plus characters’ gender differences.Mango!

If you are interested in learning some Mandarin Chinese, you can access Mango Languages via our website (use at a library or enter your library card & password/PIN) or download the Android / iOS app to your mobile device – this would a good place to start your journey.

“书山有路勤为径, 学海无涯苦作舟” – 韩愈 (from a Chinese poem)

Diligence is the path to the mountain of knowledge; hard-work is the boat to the endless sea of learning.

A Midwinter Christchurch’s Dream of Shakespeare 基督城冬季的莎士比亚之梦

Cover of ShakespeareWith 23 April 2014 marking the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare‘s birth, the Court Theatre is celebrating the Bard by bringing the midsummer heat into our Christchurch winter!

It is currently staging one of Shakespeare’s most imaginative and magical plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and, fittingly, it is presenting it in a unique conception.

Talented Chinese actors from Peking University’s Institute of World Theatre and the Court Theatre’s favourite Kiwi actors are performing together to interpret this masterpiece. The result promises to be a fascinating blend of their individual creative approaches.

Not being an expert on Shakespeare myself, I thought I’d translate and paraphrase part of a poem written by a brilliant Chinese poet (王佐良 1916-1995)33 years ago:

Shakespeare, with open mind and heart, absorbs one’s charisma,  莎士比亚, 你的心胸坦荡荡吸收这个的俊逸,

Imitates the other’s wildness, 模仿那个的开阔,

To write touching plays, 只要能写出动人的诗剧,

Lets emotions on stage fuel up flames, 让感情在舞台上燃成烈火,

More eternal than fire. 但又比火永恒.

The fate of many characters became the subject of deep thoughts: 多少人物的命运留下了长远思索的命题:

A young intellectual’s confusion, 一个青年知识分子的困惑,

An elderly father’s moaning in the wilderness, 一个老年父亲在荒野的悲啼,

A warrior husband’s love and paranoia, 一个武士丈夫的钟情和多疑,

Another warrior’s awakening at the edge of life, 另一个武士在生命边缘的醒悟,

Made many travellers stop by, 都曾使过往岁月的无数旅人停步,

Searching for the path of life again. 重新寻找人生的道路.

Do you agree with this assessment? Do you think it reflects Shakespeare’s work accurately? What changes do you envisage Chinese actors will bring to the feel of this special staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

 Cover of A Midsummer Night's DreamP.S. Given the multicultural nature of this performance, I thought you might enjoy seeing the following translations of “William Shakespeare” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in different languages.

Chinese:   莎士比亚  –  仲夏夜之梦

Māori:   Rurutao   –  Te Wawata o te Pō Raumati

Korean:   윌리암 셰익스피어  –  한 여름 밤의 꿈

Japanese:   ウィリアム・シェイクスピア  –  夏の夜の夢

I particularly like the fact that Shakespeare translates in Māori as “to stab at one’s emotions” – if you do speak another language, do feel free to share with us how Shakespeare’s name and A Midsummer Night’s Dream have been translated in it.