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Please Respect the Books

A 7-year-old boy threw his elder brother’s book on the floor. I told him he not to throw any books on the floor, even if the book is not his. I told him to respect the book.

“But the book is not a person,” he protested.

I did not have a chance to explain to him why even though a book is not a person, we should still respect the book, because his mum came out from the room to make sure he picked the book up.

I grow up believing that books should be respected so that what you learn from the books can be remembered in the brain. Yes, a book is not a person. But, books contain knowledge. Along the way of gaining knowledge, books are the important bridge between you and knowledge.

If you do not respect books, it means you do not respect the knowledge in the books. For me, not respecting the knowledge is a disaster, it sounds like I would be dumb. Who would want to be dumb?

I do not throw books onto the floor; I also do not throw books into the recycle bin. I have lots of books. There was one time when my mum wanted me to “recycle” my books (which means the books will be treated as normal paper and recycled into other paper products). No! I rather give them to the library. At least, the knowledge is not “destroyed”.

You may say that I am old-fashioned, but I would like to repeat, respect the books, please.

Books for Reading (Chinese Language)

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. ~ René Descartes

I always encourage people to read. Reading is even more important when you are learning a language. Below are the two lists of books that I recommend to people or students who want to learn Chinese Language or Mandarin:

List 1 (for younger children and elementary learners)

  • My First Chinese Words, published by BLCU Press. There are a total of 36 books. Upon completion, children will learn basic Chinese characters and sentence patterns.
  • 《我自己会读》系列, published in Hong Kong and distributed in Singapore and Malaysia. There are 12 books in 2 series (蓝色小书和橙色小书), total of 24 books. The series is similar with My First Chinese Words, both with illustrations and HanYu PinYin. But, the books have longer sentences than My First Chinese Words.
  • Fairy tales and children stories. Maybe you have read the English version, but it is better for you to read them in Chinese version, because there are some minor differences in the story line. Some suggested titles: 《灰姑娘》、《白雪公主》、《美女与野兽》、《三只小猪》、《大萝卜》、《小红帽》。

Along the way, before you go to List 2 below, you can look for any books that interest you. Learning a language should be fun, so find something that you like, a cookbook, a comic book, anything. When you are ready for heavy stuff, go to List 2. It is written in Chinese Language, simply because you are ready for Chinese Language articles without translation!

List 2 (for young adults and advanced learners)

当你对中文越来越有兴趣,而你又渴望更上一层楼时,中国的四大名著是你最佳的选择。中国有超过五千年的文明历史,其灿烂辉煌的文化是值得我们去探讨的。而成书于明清时期的四大名著,承载了许多文化精华让我们去细细品尝。

四大名著:

  1. 《西游记》– 此书讲述唐三藏和他的三个徒弟去西天取经的故事。其中以大师兄孙悟空的角色最为脍炙人口。虽然孙悟空很调皮,但是他胆大艺高、有智慧、也对师父唐三藏很忠心。
  2. 《三国演义》– 此书讲述魏、蜀、吴三国之间的军事和政治斗争。你可能会问,军事和政治斗争不就是打打杀杀,有什么好看的?当然有,其中诸葛亮的神机妙算,关羽的义气等等都可以让现代人学习、参考。
  3. 《水浒传》– 此书讲述108个好汉在梁山聚义的故事。读完此书,你会对所谓的好人和坏人有更深一层的看法。当坏人被逼上梁山时,他还是坏人吗?
  4. 《红楼梦》– 别名《石头记》。此书讲述一段关于贾宝玉、林黛玉和薛宝钗的三角恋。当然,除了儿女情长,故事也讲述一个家族的荣衰无常和到现在还存在的阶级斗争。

已有百多年历史的四大名著,随着时代变迁,现在有很多不同的版本,有适合儿童的漫画版,也有适合青少年的简短版。不论你选择哪一个版本,都希望你可以从中学习到故事里所要带出的讯息。

Enjoy the reading! 祝阅读愉快!

Tools to Help You in Learning Chinese Language

The journey has started. You have learnt 汉语拼音、笔画和部首 (The basics of Chinese Language). By now, you may already know some simple Chinese characters such as 人,口,木,花, etc. You would like to continue the journey, along the way, keep the below tools handy:

  1. 汉语字典 或 汉语词典 — 汉语 = Chinese Language. Whether you need a 字典 or a 词典 is a matter of personal preference. As a general rule of thumb, most people start with a 字典 with English translation. For advanced learners, I would suggest to have a 词典. The difference between the two is 字典 gives you the meaning of a single Chinese character and some common matching with other Chinese characters. Chinese characters “mix and match” with each other and each matching has a slightly different meaning. 词典 gives you the meaning of a matching. Thus, a 词典 helps you to use Chinese words more accurately.
  2. Books / Newspaper / Magazines — Even if it is a Chinese comic book, it is helpful. It helps to keep the fire of interest burning. One of the enemies of learning a language is that you have lost the motivation or interest to learn. Thus, keep yourself busy by reading a story book, newspaper or magazines. The bottom line, the reading materials must be in Chinese Language, with or without English translation.
  3. Televisions / Radios — When you first started learning, you find that you do not know how to read a lot of Chinese characters. Listening to good television and radio programmes help you to pronounce Chinese words correctly and also to recognize the different “matching” of Chinese characters.
  4. Mobile Applications — For younger learners, they may learn by using applicable mobile apps. Mobile apps are more interesting than reading materials and TV / radio programmes. You can learn as and when you like it. They are suitable for younger learners who have short attention span where they can learn, stop (off the apps) and learn again at a later time. Caution: mobile apps may give you the wrong information (e.g. a monkey picture which reads 小狗). Thus, do not depend solely on mobile apps to learn Chinese Language.

Chinese characters used in this post

  • 和 — and
  • 或 — or
  • 人 — person / human
  • 口 — mouth
  • 木 — wood
  • 花 — flower
  • 小狗 — puppy (小 = small, 狗 = dog)

All the tools ready? The next station is to learn about the grammar. See you along the way!

What is 1+1?

Easy! 1+1 = 2

But in actual scenario, we may get different answers from different people:

Young children who have just learnt Addition: 1+1 = 2

People who think in Chinese: 一+一 = 王

(One is 一 in Chinese, and if arrange vertically, you get the Chinese character 王)

For Korean lovers: 1+1 = gwiyomi

Secondary school students who have just learnt binary: 1+1 = 10

What other answers can you think of?

There is no one and single answer in this world, we are searching for alternate answers whether at work or in life. In school, students learn that there is only one answer, especially the MCQ. Students will slowly lose the creativity if teachers and parents cultivate a “one-answer-only” environment.

Thus, students must train themselves to not only think out of the box, but think out of the world. You can do the following PQR:

  1. Play! Physical games or electronics games, you choose. Either one, playing helps in creating a different environment that is full of excitement. Personally, I prefer physical games because when you play, you have better blood circulation. Better blood circulation leads to faster brain activity.
  2. Question. Ask why and how. When you have one answer, always ask yourself, is there another answer? When you find that doing something in a particular way is dull and repetitive, ask yourself, can you do it another way? Innovative machines sometimes come from one question.
  3. Read different types of books, be it detective, horror, fantasy, novel, love, etc. Different types of books bring you to different worlds, expose you to different ideas and ignite your curiosity.

Continue the good habits above into adulthood. At work, find a better and faster way to do your job. In life, think of better way to enjoy life. If we want to do our jobs better or live a better life, we must always be creative and innovative.