I recently saw the poster below at a Subway sandwich shop in Taiwan, and it stood out right away – what could a poster about social ethics be doing in a sandwich shop? Well, for whatever reason, it’s a good excuse for us to learn some Chinese from it, so I took a quick snap while waiting for my sandwich to be made (…and before you put finger to keyboard to slam me for going to Subway when there’s so much tasty Taiwanese food to be had, everyone needs a sandwich now and again!).
Rather than translate the whole poster, I’ve picked out a few interesting parts – the first being the most important word:
A very useful word, an example of its use might be:
bùguǎn qù nǎlǐ, tā dōu hěn lǐmào
No matter where he goes, he’s always very polite
To say impolite, all you need do is a 「不」 to make 「不禮貌」.
The most interesting part of the poster, and something that stood out to me since I first started learning Mandarin is the …了沒 usage. Basically means “or not”, but has more of a “haven’t you…” feeling about it. The poster above says:
nǐ jīntiān lǐmào le méi?
This could be translated along the lines of “Have you been polite today, or not?”, or “Haven’t you been polite today?” with more of a questioning tone – if not, the why not etc. I first saw this usage on an advert for Wii when I first came to Taiwan. The ad read:
nǐ jīntiān wán Wii le méi？
If you have the time, download and read the larger version of the poster and see how much you can understand. The rest of the poster talks about situations that might be considered impolite, the importance of manners in a civil society, and some simple ways that you can be polite. Here’s a few words from the poster that should help you reading: