Watching Electric Shadows on my Electric Brain


When learning a language you have to build up vocabulary, and remember it.  As infants we all learn to speak in a very natural way – every word is new, but we concentrate on the words that we need or that we hear regularly, further vocabulary is acquired through school, reading and listening.  I can’t remember doing any of it, it just happened.  How different it is when you are an adult learning a new and unfamiliar language.

For myself, learning Mandarin, I find it helps to have mental hooks to hang words on, and to use the words as soon and as often as possible so that they become embedded.  I am always grateful when a word or group of words makes it easy for me to remember it/them.

The chinese word for electric is just such a useful word.  The character for electric/electricity is dian and it usually precedes other characters to make different words, and that makes them easy to remember.

There is dian ying  电影 which, literally translated is ‘electric shadows‘ and means film,  and following on from that you get dian ying yuan 影院  – ‘electric shadows park‘,  ie:  a cinema.

Dian nao  电脑 is ‘electric brain‘ which is a computer – think about how logical that is!   A computer IS an electric brain.

Dian ti 电梯 is ‘electric ladder‘, ie: an elevator or escalator – very obvious.

Dian hua 电话 is ‘electric speech’ which is the telephone – so dianhua hao 电话号electric speech number‘ is telephone number.

Dianzi is an electron, and from that you get dianzi youjian, ie: email, and dianzi tushu, ie: e-book

Electricity has sparked up my chinese vocabulary no end!

About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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2 Responses to Watching Electric Shadows on my Electric Brain

  1. Sheila Taylor says:

    You are amazing to be able to learn this language – bravo!

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