Chinese vocabulary notes #8

Chinese vocabulary notes (May 2022)

This edition could be called “escape from Shanghai”. Bear with me for some more zero-covid refugee talk.

The Chinese government insists that their zero-covid policy is “bringing Covid-19 under control at the minimum social cost in the shortest time possible.” Well, I don’t know about that. My personal observation is that this virus can’t be contained on the long term – not by wearing masks, lockdowns or mass vaccination programs. At this point, it’s hardly more than a common cold for the great majority of people. So why on earth is Shanghai sacrificing its economy to “control” what can’t be controlled?

Anyway, it’s just so frustrating to see governments adopting such destructive policies and it’s no surprise that people want to leave… And that’s what this edition of Chinese vocabulary notes is all about!

By the way, I’d like to recommend this article “Should you learn Mandarin despite China’s zero covid policy?” by Jaap Grolleman, who has been in China since 2018 and currently lives and works in Shanghai. I’ve also been struggling with this question. What’s the point of learning Mandarin if you can’t freely enter the country with most Chinese speakers? I’ll quote the conclusion here:

But most importantly, a career in China may still work depending on your timeline. China will open up, eventually. It’s unlikely to do so before 2024, but even if you put the timeline to 2026, that still gives you four years. The zero covid policy is driven by a lot of things, but not out of hate for foreigners. So if you spend four years learning Mandarin, you may be in a really great position to move to China once it opens up. China will be needing foreign talent and if you can speak Mandarin your life will be much easier here. Also, fewer Chinese students are choosing to study abroad and this may hurt overall English language performance — on top of tutor crackdowns for primary schools. It’s just a matter of whether you can keep up learning motivation if you cannot enter China, and whether you can create an immersive environment for yourself despite not learning in China. But if fewer people choose to learn Mandarin, that may actually work in your favor.

Should you learn Mandarin despite China’s zero covid policy?

And now to this month’s vocabulary notes:

“I escaped from Shanghai”

This guy escaped the madness, because he couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know why he needs to swear every third sentence, but apart from that he gives a down-to-earth, no-nonsense view on the situation as he experienced it. I like his metaphor of the frog that’s slowly being cooked without ever noticing. Only when he arrived in Europe, he realized how mad things actually were. (I’m not saying that things in Europe are “normal”, although definitely more relaxed than in China – it’s all relative). He also expresses his frustration about the passiveness of Shanghai citizens.

解封jiě fēngto “unblock” / end lockdown
房舱fáng cāngcabin
魔幻的事情móhuàn de shìqínga magical thing (not a good thing)
清零qīng língzero-covid
做核酸zuò hésuānto do a covid-test
团购tuángòu“group buy”
控制病毒的方式kòngzhì bìngdú de fāngshìWays to control the virus
大喊大叫dà hǎn dà jiàoto yell
想不通xiǎng bùtōngCan’t figure out / can’t understand
注射疫苗zhùshè yìmiáoto vaccinate
忍受rěnshòuto bear
忍耐rěnnàito endure
中国泡沫zhōngguó pàomòthe Chinese bubble
格格不入gégébùrùout of place, incompatible

“阿福已经润了?有些细节值得关注” (Afu escaped too)

Some gossip from our German Charles Manson look-a-like 老雷! Hadn’t checked on him in a long time, but this video was one of the first that popped up about the fact that his fellow German YouTuber Afu escaped Shanghai, (阿福润了, the character 润 is a pun on “run” in English). The main reason for his 15-minutes rambling seems to be that Afu somehow is a pawn in the hands of the CCP, but not a very reliable one, for now that things got nasty, he left everything behind, including his wife, and boarded an airplane back to Germany. That’s at least his long-distance interpretation.

一直不断yīzhí bùduànall the time
不让出门bù ràng chūméndon’t let you go out
多么想润duōme xiǎng rùnhow much you want to run
十天以前发布了视频shí tiān yǐqián fābùle shìpínVideo posted ten days ago
德国大使馆déguó dàshǐ guǎnGerman Embassy
德国航班déguó hángbānGerman flight
德国公民déguó gōngmínGerman citizen
哪怕nǎpàeven if
太想念了tài xiǎngniànlemiss it so much

I couldn’t help listening to his ramblings some more in a second video about Afu. Probably because we’re from the same language area, he’s much easier to follow for me than the guy in the first video for example. I picked up some useful expressions like 按照我的理解 and X有什么样. It seems – judging from his channel – that although he left China years ago, linguistically “he’s still there”, almost as if he never went away. That’s impressive.

按照我的理解ànzhào wǒ de lǐjiěas I understand
我有一些疑问wǒ yǒu yīxiē yíwènI’ve got some questions
八卦bāguàgossip, to gossip
尊重他们的隐私zūnzhòng tāmen de yǐnsīto respect their privacy
鄙视bǐshìto despise
X有什么样A yǒu shénmeyàngWhat about X? (a bit like “so what?”)
招呼父母zhāohū fùmǔTake care of one’s parents

One thing he’s right about though is that Afu’s videos in contrast to his own are heavily edited. 老雷 has a special talent for long, uncut monologues. I’ve never seen Afu doing that. When you watch his videos closely, they’re usually cut sentence by sentence, which – together with the music – creates the upbeat tempo and feeling.

敏感的问题mǐngǎn de wèntíSensitive issues
我不鄙视阿福wǒ bu bǐshì āfúI don’t despise
心疼他们xīnténg tāmento feel sorry for them
作为一个人zuòwéi yīgè rénAs a human being
吐槽tǔcáoTo roast (slang), to ridicule
晒他冰箱shài tā bīngxiāngTo show off (the contents of) his fridge (during lockdown)

Afu: 疫情期间,离开上海有多难?

Now we’ve heard 老雷‘s account of Afu’s story, it’s about time to turn over to the man himself and let him tell what’s there to tell. How did he escape from Shanghai and leave everything behind?

冒险的故事màoxiǎn de gùshìadventure story
70岁大寿70 suì dàshòu70th birthday
改签gǎi qiānrebook (flight)
到现在还没有一个明确的解封日期dào xiànzài hái méiyǒu yīgè míngquè de jiěfēng rìqíThere is no definite “release date” yet
给我爸妈一个惊喜gěi wǒ bà mā yīgè jīngxǐSurprise my parents
浦东机场pǔdōng jīchǎngPudong Airport
通行证tōngxíngzhèngcertificate that allows you to pass
静默期的上海jìngmò qí de shànghǎiShanghai “in the silent period”
国际航班guójì hángbānInternational Flights
流浪在机场liúlàng zài jīchǎngTo be stuck at the airport / “homeless” at the airport

That’s it for this month. See you in June!

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