Chinese: the many ways of expressing similitude

Foreword: if you can’t read Chinese characters yet, make use of the Perapera plugin for Chrome which will give you roll-over definitions and Pinyin for Chinese words. This saves me having to type out lots of Pinyin. It also avoids cluttering up pages even more than they already are. (Perapera doesn’t work with Firefox Quantum, unfortunately, but I’d love to hear what the latest alternative is.)

The most basic pattern of making comparisons in Chinese literally goes “X with Y [degree of similarity]“. A common word for ‘with’ is ‘‘. Here are a bunch of examples to illustrate:

一樣
I am the same as you
[Lit. I with you same]

差不多
I’m about the same as you
[Lit. I with you about-the-same]

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Crowd Lu: Mosquito / 蚊子 – English Translation

Continuing this run of easy-to-learn Crowd Lu (盧廣仲) songs, here’s my translation of ‘Mosquito’ (蚊子). There are fewer lines to learn than most of his numbers, and two useful 成語 to pick up here. This song is funny because the mosquito that he’s addressing is never explicitly called out – if you ask other people to guess from the lyrics, they’ll probably just assume the target of the song is someone, rather than something.

終於 你還是靠了過來
You’re back, at last
[Lit. At-last, you still approached over-come]

早知道 你會在夏天回來
I knew all along that you’d be back in the summer

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Crowd Lu: Slow Soul / 慢靈魂 – English Translation

I like this song by Crowd Lu, which includes a lot of simple nouns and verbs, especially referring to the time of day. There’s also a little higher-level Chinese too, as noted in the translation below. The song uses the simile of a kite blowing in the wind to describe the aimless way in which the singer’s life develops. As is typical of Crowd’s lyrics, there are a lot of lines where it’s ambiguous what he’s referring to, which can make it a little tricky to understand without considering the song holistically. (For example: we see 找不到 a few times, but there’s no object; what is it that he can’t find?)

He sings nice and clearly, and it’s been available at every karaoke place I’ve been to in Hong Kong and Guangdong, so it’s worth learning.

晚霞燦爛照著我 一朵蒲公英飄過窗口
It’s sunset; a dandelion floats past the window
[Lit. evening sunset-clouds brightly shining me; one [counter] dandelion float past window]
[晚霞, wǎn xiá, is quite literary and has no direct equivalent in English*]

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Jay Chou: The Rhythm of the Rain / 聽見下雨的聲音 – English Translation

This song is filled with metaphors and constructions which you wouldn’t find in English. Also, the events described in the song are not chronological, and the person to whom they relate changes from line to line without necessarily being explicit about it… which is why I would give this song a difficulty rating of ‘medium-hard’. At least each line rhymes! Hopefully the notes are helpful.

竹籬上停留著蜻蜓
There’s a dragonfly on the fence

玻璃瓶裡插滿小小森林
The bottle [on the ground] has given birth to a small forest
[Lit. Glass bottle inside insert-full small-small forest]
[方文山 often describes the scenery at the start of each song. From the rest of the song, you can infer that the singer is visiting the house where he and his lover used to stay. Since it’s now springtime, plant-life has erupted everywhere, including inside a bottle that was somewhere on the premises.]

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Crowd Lu: Cafeteria Feliz / 開心餐廳 – English Translation

開心餐廳 contains a lot of very basic vocab and grammar, so is great for lower intermediate students. This is one of my favorite Crowd Lu songs, because it’s just so darned funny – it’s all about a restaurant that he’d like to open. He goes through the song describing what he’d buy and how he’d run it; the cutest thing is that he puts the emphasis on making friends. If this isn’t an antidote to all those sorrowful love songs that permeate the world of Chinese music, I don’t know what is.

昨天晚上夢見 我開了一間店
I had a dream last night in which I’d set up shop

販賣一些咖啡還有一些些甜點
Selling coffee and deserts
[一些: ‘a little/some’, redundant in English]

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