Chinese vocabulary notes (February + March 2024)

In this edition: declining marriage rates in China, interview with the winner of the world’s largest Chinese competition, English skills of Chinese people, 996 work culture, banning TikTok (or not) and the canceled Prime Minister’s press conference.

Why Chinese Girls Don’t Want to Get Married Anymore?

In recent years, China has witnessed a concerning decline in marriage rates, leading to a consequential drop in childbirths. This trend poses significant challenges to the country’s future economic landscape. Eileen and Sharon delve into the underlying reasons behind Chinese girls’ increasingly negative attitudes towards marriage.

The discussion in the video encompasses various topics, including the drastic changes in China’s marriage rates, the four primary reasons deterring Chinese girls from marriage, concerns about aging alone, and the broader impacts on birth rates and the economy. Additionally, they explore the emerging phenomenon of Chinese girls purchasing sex toys, speculate on the potential societal implications of declining marriage rates, and ponder the role of AI and robots in addressing loneliness among single Chinese women.

Although discussed as a uniquely Chinese problem, in my own social circle in Germany, I also observe less and less ‘interest’ in marrying, resulting in couples marrying when they’re in their late thirties or not bothering to marry at all, not to mention having children. This seems especially true for higher educated people.

As always: a highly interesting discussion and excellent listening material for intermediate and advanced Chinese learners.

Difficulty: HSK 4-5

中国德结婚率开始下滑了Zhōngguó dé jiéhūn lǜ kāishǐ xiàhuáleThe marriage rate in China has begun to decline
据我的观察jù wǒ de guāncháAccording to my observation
原因是多方面的yuányīn shì duō fāngmiàn deThere are many reasons
找不到合适的伴侣zhǎo bù dào héshì de bànlǚCan’t find a suitable partner
大男子主义dà nánzǐ zhǔyìMachismo
下头男xiàtou náninternet slang for men who are not attractive to women or “turning off”
爹味diē wèidaddy-like
我这一辈子是为了自己而活德wǒ zhè yībèizi shì wèile zìjǐ ér huó deI live my life for myself
接受孤独终老gūdú zhōnglǎoaccept growing old alone
不公平德家庭分工bù gōngpíng dé jiātíng fēngōngUnfair division of family labor

ZERO Chinese to World Champion WITHOUT going to China (This is how she did it)

Iva Ilić was raised in Serbia and acquired proficiency in Chinese entirely outside of China. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, she found herself competing in the world’s largest Chinese competition, ultimately emerging as the world champion. Rita interviews her to find out more about her remarkable journey.

Difficulty: HSK 5

挑战自己tiǎozhàn zìjǐchallenge yourself
会有回报的huì yǒu huíbào dewill be rewarding
主动学习zhǔdòng xuéxíactive learning
被动学习bèidòng xuéxípassive learning
轻松的状态下qīngsōng de zhuàngtài xiàin a relaxed state
教的内容有点土jiào de nèiróng yǒudiǎn tǔlearning content taught is a bit crude
打了一个好的基础dǎle yīgè hǎo de jīchǔlaid a good foundation
表达你自己biǎodá nǐ zìjǐexpress yourself

Can Top 0.1% Students in China Speak fluent English? | Street Interview

This street interview by Asian Boss tests the English skills of Chinese top university students. How do they rate their English skills and how fluent are they in reality? Why is it that China is (still) considered a “low proficiency English-speaking” country, although so many Chinese people are taught English and recognize the value of this second language? One interviewee speaks perfect American-English and doesn’t seem to lack self-confidence at all, but most others are struggling. Why is that?

Difficulty: HSK 5

考进大学kǎo jìn dàxuéto enter into University (by passing 高考)
我的口语比较懒wǒ de kǒuyǔ bǐjiào lǎnmy spoken language is relatively bad
在学习方面zài xuéxí fāngmiànIn terms of studying
在听说方面zài tīng shuō fāngmiànIn terms of listening and speaking
长期使用chángqí shǐyònglong-term usage
背单词bèi dāncímemorizing vocabulary
收到高中教育的人比较少shōudào gāozhōng jiàoyù de rén bǐjiào shǎothere are relatively few people who have received high school education

Can Adults Learn Languages Like Children?

In this episode of Rita AKA Fan laoshi, Chinese teacher Mairead Harris shares her insights on the question if adults can learn languages like children. You can guess the answer, however, Mairead does have a lot of wisdom to share on teaching Chinese to different age groups. She speaks Chinese with amazing fluency and I can tell she is a passionate teacher. What I liked particularly about this conversation is the amount language study vocabulary to be picked up.

Difficulty: HSK 5

教育制度jiàoyù zhìdùEducation system
学习的技巧xuéxí de jìqiǎoStudy skills
笔顺bǐshùnStroke order
教学模式jiàoxué móshìTeaching method
语言学的知识yǔyánxué de zhīshiLinguistic knowledge
语法结构yǔfǎ jiégòuGrammar structure
练听力liàn tīnglìPracticing listening comprehension

Is The Extreme 996 Work Culture In China True? | Street Interview

Another street interview video by Asian Boss, asking what Chinese people think about 996 work culture. What’s even considered working overtime in China anyway, since long work hours seem to be so common? And what are the health implications for Chinese employees that work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day?

Listening to these interviews, I can’t help but feel pity. It can’t be the purpose of life to spend almost all of your conscious time on work? To speak of ‘work life balance’ in this context, although it really depends on your line of work, is a joke. I also doubt that working so much makes you more productive. I’d even go so far as to say that in most office jobs the longer the work week, the less efficient people perform their tasks. Like this commenter below I don’t think it’s so much about output and efficiency, but rather has to do with a collectivist spirit that is enforced by companies:

I grew up in Canada and have worked in China since 2015. Overtime definitely depends on industry, or more importantly a government job or private company. For government jobs, it is pretty lax. A lot of government jobs are usually 9:30am-11:30am, lunch break. then 2:30pm-5pm. But private company jobs often have lots of overtime. And a lot of tech firms, design firms, finance or other service firms are in fact private companies. In my case, as an architect, 50-60 hours a week is common. However, I feel overtime in China is actually pretty unproductive, usually caused by needless bureaucracy, bad client management, and just unhealthy overtime culture. I remember this one time, I finished my assigned work from my manager and left on time because my parents came to China to see me. The next day I was reprimanded for leaving before the project group finished their work. I was stunned at this, since I was focused and finished early rather than doing “tea breaks” and chatting during work.

And isn’t working overtime actually selling your time and energy for free? I also have to agree with this comment, wondering how we’ve been brainwashed to accept this kind of exploitation as normal:

I was surprised how many people considered it normal to work for free. When the work is making money for a business, why should they work for free? Maybe, if the work was making the world a better place…but if it’s just about making money for someone else, why? Why do that? We’ve been brainwashed.

Difficulty: HSK 5

超过八个小时chāoguò bā gè xiǎoshí More than eight hours
业余生活yèyú shēnghuóleisure life
科技大商kējì dà shāngtechnology giants / big-tech
高端有本事的人gāoduān yǒu běnshì de rénhigh-end talented individuals
互联网行业hùliánwǎng hángyèinternet industry
对我个人来说duì wǒ gèrén lái shuō For me personally

Should the United States ban tiktok?

German YouTuber and traveler Laolei discusses if the United States will ban TikTok, expressing his curiosity how they will do it and which arguments they’ll use to defend this move. Laolei argues with the an eye for an eye principle, which in his view allows the USA to ban a Chinese social media platform if China does likewise with American platforms like Facebook and X.

Although it sounds logical and fair, I still think a leading social media platform should be banned for the right reasons. If there are data privacy concerns and cybersecurity risks for example, they should be investigated and the results shared for democratic debate. And even though I’m the last person to defend TikTok in anyway, I do think it’s reasonable to discuss various solutions, banning the platform altogether is not without alternatives.

Laolei shares his reflections hot of the press as always. He often breaks off a sentence, but that makes him all the more authentic (he doesn’t read his story off a piece of paper). Personally, I can follow him well and always pick up some useful expressions from his videos.

Chinese summary: 美国政府再次考虑禁止来自中国的社交网络平台TikTok。过去曾经有关于禁止该平台的讨论,但是美国政府并未采取行动。德国YouTuber老雷认为值得禁止TikTok展开讨论。在讨论中可以提及这家中国公司对美国的潜在危害和风险。

Difficulty: HSK 4-5

禁止tiktokjìnzhǐ TikTokto ban TikTok
耐人寻味nàirén xúnwèithought-provoking
美国国会Měiguó guóhuìUnited States Congress
让他自由活动ràng tā zìyóu huódòngLet him move freely
我只能指望wǒ zhǐ néng zhǐwàngI can only hope
讨论的结果是什么tǎolùn de jiéguǒ shì shénmeWhat is the result of the discussion
中国官方媒体Zhōngguó guānfāng méitǐChinese official media
言论自由yánlùn zìyóuFreedom of speech
社交网shèjiāo wǎngSocial network

Why did the CCP cancel the Prime Minister’s press conference?

In early March, China surprised everyone by saying they won’t hold the usual press conference with their leader, Premier Li Qiang, during their yearly meetings. This won’t happen for the next few years. This shows that China is becoming more controlling under its leaders, especially since they changed their constitution in 2018.

The premier’s press conference started in 1988. It was one of the few times journalists could directly talk to a top Chinese leader. Premiers have been attending these conferences regularly since 1993, with the last one held in 2023.

During these conferences, the questions and answers were mostly planned beforehand. But sometimes, the premiers showed their personality or talked about issues not usually mentioned in Chinese media. For journalists, it was a rare chance to ask sensitive questions about China’s politics.

Free journalist 王志安 sheds his light on the following questions:

  • Why did the CCP cancel the Prime Minister’s press conference?
  • Was this request made by Xi Jinping?
  • What is the history of the Prime Minister’s Press Conference?
  • What does it mean to cancel the press conference?

Difficulty: HSK 6

取消总理记者会Qǔxiāo zǒnglǐ jìzhěhuìCanceling Premier’s Press Conference
被删除了Bèi shānchúlehas been deleted
理解中国的一个非常重要的窗口Lǐjiě Zhōngguó de yīgè fēicháng zhòngyào de chuāngkǒua very important window to understand China
我没有更多需要补充的信息Wǒ méiyǒu gèng duō xūyào bǔchōng de xìnxīI have no more information to add
为什么过去的总理还要出来接受记者采访Wèishéme guòqù de zǒnglǐ hái yào chūlái jiēshòu jìzhě cǎifǎngWhy do past premiers still have to come out for press interviews
这个理由不成立Zhège lǐyóu bù chénglìThis reason is not valid
给外媒记者提问Gěi wàiméi jìzhě tíwèngive foreign media journalists opportunity to ask questions

That’s it for this edition. Hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be back with more content soon!

Graded Chinese readers

Graded Chinese Reader 500 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Mini-stories
Graded Chinese Reader 1000 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Short Stories
The Rise of the Monkey King: A Story in Simplified Chinese and Pinyin 600 Word Vocabulary Level
The Sixty Year Dream: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers Level 1 (Chinese Edition)
The Dwarfs 小矮人 Xiǎo ǎi rén (HSK3+Reading): Chinese HSK Graded Reader
The Prince and the Pauper: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers Level 1,
Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series Level 1(300-Word Level): Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
Graded Chinese Reader 3000 Words: Selected Abridged Chinese Contemporary Short Stories

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