Following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, the US and South Korea had planned a military exercise to take place in the Yellow Sea, although the exercise has since been postponed numerous times. The BBC’s Chinese website yesterday reported that China opposes the exercise:
zhōng guó rén mín jiě fàng jūn fù zǒng cān móu zhǎng mǎ xiǎo tiān shàng jiàng rì qián zài jiē shòu xiāng gǎng méi tǐ cǎi fǎng shí gōng kāi biǎo shì, měi hán liǎng guó huáng hǎi jūn yǎn “jù lí zhōng guó lǐng hǎi hěn jìn, wǒ men fēi cháng fǎn duì”, yǐn fā gè guó méi tǐ mì qiè guān zhù.
At first glance the beginning of this sentence at looks extremely complicated, although as with most news it is simply explaining that someone, somewhere, at some time, did something. So who did what? when? and where?
A break down of the sentence looks like so:
It’s easy to be intimidated when looking at a series of seemingly unrelated Chinese characters, but picking out what you know will help immensely, and most of the time the other parts aren’t necessarily that important to the main point of the sentence.
For instance looking at the sentence above, we can easily see “中國”, then if we know “軍” is related to the military, then the rest of the first part is a bit of a jumble if you don’t know the words – but if we keep reading until we see the pattern 在…時 we know that the Chinese military at some point in time did something. At the very least you would probably know 香港 between 在….時, so we know the Chinese Military, in Hong Kong, 表示 expressed an opinion about something.
So even though we skipped a lot of words we can still read the main idea: 中國…軍…在…香港…時…表示. That is pretty much all you need to know, the other stuff you can learn later, so we can essentially keep reading without worrying that we’ve missed much. (we’ll cover more on how to read the news in Chinese at a later date)
The specifics for this sentence are as follows, although as we just saw, it’s not essential to know all this:
Pinyin: zhōng guó rén mín jiě fàng jūn fù zǒng cān móu zhǎng mǎ xiǎo tiān shàng jiàng
Zhuyin: ㄓㄨㄥ ㄍㄨㄛˊ ㄖㄣˊ ㄇㄧㄣˊ ㄐㄧㄝˇ ㄈㄤˋ ㄐㄩㄣ ㄈㄨˋ ㄗㄨㄥˇ ㄘㄢ ㄇㄡˊ ㄓㄤˇ ㄇㄚˇ ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄊㄧㄢ ㄕㄤˋ ㄐㄧㄤ
English: This is the part of the sentence that appears particularly complicated, 中國人民解放軍 Chinese People’s Liberation Army, 副總參謀長 deputy chief of staff, 馬曉天上將 General Ma Xiao Tian.
Pinyin: rì qián
Zhuyin: ㄖˋ ㄑㄧㄢˊ
English: yesterday, the other day, a few days ago
Pinyin: zài jiē shòu xiāng gǎng méi tǐ cǎi fǎng shí
Zhuyin: ㄗㄞˋ ㄐㄧㄝ ㄕㄡˋ ㄒㄧㄤ ㄍㄤˇ ㄇㄟˊ ㄊㄧˇ ㄘㄞˇ ㄈㄤˇ ㄕˊ
English: 在 at, 接受 receive/accept, 香港 Hong Kong, 媒體 media, 採訪 interview, 時 time. This is a commonly used sentence structure 在…時, which means ‘at the time of…’ or simply ‘when’, in this case ‘when accepting an interview from the Hong Kong media’.
Pinyin: kāi mài
Zhuyin: ㄎㄞ ㄇㄞˋ
English: 公開 publicly, 表示 express, say
What did the Chinese Military Deputy Chief of Staff express an opinion on? the rest of the sentence goes as follows:
měi hán liǎng guó huáng hǎi jūn yǎn “jù lí zhōng guó lǐng hǎi hěn jìn, wǒ men fēi cháng fǎn duì”, yǐn fā gè guó méi tǐ mì qiè guān zhù.
Taking what we’ve just learnt above, looking at this sentence what can we pick out at a basic level? 韓美…軍…離中國…很近…我們非常反對, the Korean and US military are close to China, and China is really opposed. The other words such as 領海 or 軍演 while providing more information, aren’t essential to understand the main point.
Pinyin: jūn yǎn
Zhuyin: ㄐㄩㄣ ㄧㄢˇ
English: milirary exercise
Pinyin: lǐng hǎi
Zhuyin: ㄌㄧㄥˇ ㄏㄞˇ
English: territorial waters
Pinyin: yǐn fā
Zhuyin: ㄧㄣˇ ㄈㄚ
English: cause, initiate
Pinyin: yǐn fā
Zhuyin: ㄧㄣˇ ㄈㄚ
English: close 密切, to pay attention to 關注
Just for completeness, here’s the full translation of this introductory paragraph:
At a recent interview with the Hong Kong media, the Chinese Deputy Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army revealed that the planned area for the US/Korea military exercise is “very close to China” and that China is “strongly opposed” to the exercise, sparking international media attention.
Are you put off when you come across a series of words that are unfamiliar? How do you handle reading the news in Chinese?
If there is a particular area of the news you’d like us to look at more please leave a message in the comments…