Children’s Story: 《老爷爷的帽子》The Old Man’s Hat

Aw, reciprocity. An old man does a kindness for a little bird, and he receives a kindness in return.

Aw, reciprocity. An old man does a kindness for a little bird, and he receives a kindness in return.

Some language stuff

In the second-to-last paragraph, the little birds “sing a song for the old man”, or “唱歌给老爷爷听” chàng gē gěi lǎo yé ye tīng. You may notice that the characters for “give” (给 gěi) and the character for “listen” (听 tīng) are in there, but why? In Chinese, the way to say “to sing a song for (person)” is “sing a song and give (person) listen”. That should clear that up.

Action + result – In Chinese, actions are sometimes grouped together in the order in which they happened to express an entire concept. In paragraph two for example, we see 冻 dòng, which means “to freeze” and 死 sǐ, which means “to die”. If you stick them next to each other, you might guess that this means “freeze to death”, and you’d be right. First, you freeze, then as a result, you die.

In that same paragraph, we also see 吹走 chuī zǒu, 吹 meaning “to blow” (like the wind), and 走 meaning “to go away”. Put them together, and you get “to blow away”, like “the wind blew it away”. Similar pattern in the last paragraph in with 着凉生病. 着凉 zhuó liàng means “to catch a chill” and 生病 shēng bìng means “to get sick”, so “to get sick as a result of catching a chill”.

All of those examples make sense in English, and can be directly translated, but the final one, 送给 sòng gěi, is a little trickier. 送 means “to send” and 给 means “to give”, but this seems repetitive, like the same action is being done twice – where’s the result? To understand this, imagine the process of giving someone a present. First, you must deliver it to them in some way – you stretch out your hand if they’re in front of you, or put it in the mail – this is 送. Once it is in their hands, it has been given to them, this is 给. So, 送给 is really just the equivalent of the English word “to give”.

I’m sure I’ve just lumped a bunch of technically unrelated grammatical structures together and all the linguists are cringing, but this unprofessional little concept helps me decipher bunches of verbs, so tough linguistic cookies.

Source here.

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Show English translation »

Winter had come, the north wind blew whoo whoo, and the weather was very cold. There was a small pitiful bird, sitting on a tree branch so cold it was shivering.

An old man walked by, saw the little bird, and thought to himself: “This little bird is so pitiful, on a day as cold as this, it will surely freeze to death.” The little bird said to the old man: “The wind blew our nest away, we have no home.” The old man said: “Don’t worry, I’ll help you think of a solution.” The old man then used his own hat and gave it to the little bird to make a nest, the hat was very warm.

The little bird realized that in the forest there were still quite a few little birds who would soon freeze to death, so it called them all to come, and together they flew into the old man’s hat. They all profusely thanked the old man. Thereafter, the old man came every day to see the little birds, and each time the little birds sang a song for the old man.

One day the old man didn’t come, turns out he was ill. The little bird thought: “Surely [because] the old man gave us his hat, he caught a chill and got sick, let’s quickly make a hat for the old man.” So the little birds used their own feathers to make a hat and gave it to the old man. The old man profusely thanked the little birds, and his illness was quickly cured.

3 replies on “Children’s Story: 《老爷爷的帽子》The Old Man’s Hat”

Hi, I used this for a class. Do you think I could change some of the definitions and pinyins? Hovering over 小鸟 and seeing it meant ‘little penis’ was very jarring and definitely wrong. Additionally, many of the pinyin in this story and the other stories are used incorrectly.

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