Is This The Key to Langauge Learning Success?

Word of the Week: zǎo

When I was a student at Zhejiang Univesity I used to get up really early. I figured I could get up early and study a couple of hours whilst most other people were still in bed. It was a routine that really worked for me, I didn’t have to feel guilty about going out and enjoying myself later in the day because I’d already got up early and studied a couple of hours. In Chinese you can say zǎo qǐ 早起 (early up) to mean “get up out of bed early in the morning”.

A lot of successful people who get really good at something will zǎo qǐ and take advantage of the extra time to continue improving. Apparently Kobe Bryant would regularly zǎo qǐ to get in extra basketball training. Whether it’s sports, career or language learning you get find extra time to work hard and improve if you zǎo qǐ.

wǒ měi tiān zǎo qǐ 我每天早起 (I get up early every morning)

If you zǎo qǐ then you might even have enough time to have a Chinese class with a private tutor before you go to work and your day will be off to a winning start before you’ve even clocked in.

2016-02-7--10-54-32practising calligraphy at 6am

Last week I was invited to a Chinese class for complete beginners. I wanted to go because I was interested to see how they taught a class to a group of adults with no assumed prior knowledge of the language. But then again there was a good chance I would just get bored and there were other more important things I needed to do so I didn’t go.

I didn’t want to sound big headed but the fact is I had already mastered basic Chinese a long time ago.

wǒ zǎo jiù xué hǎo le 我早就学好了 (I early study good/ I learn it ages ago)

In this sentence we can use the word “early” (zǎo 早) to mean you did something a long time ago. It is usually followed by the particle jiù 就 to get the following sentence structure.

wǒ zǎo jiù (verb) le 我早就(verb)了

So in Chinese if you say you did something early it doesn’t always mean you did it early in the day, it could mean you did it a long time ago or you did it much earlier in the day.

For example, if your friend comes over at 4pm and you are still wearing your pyjamas they might ask

nǐ cái gāng qǐ chuáng ma? 你才刚起床吗?(have you just got up?

To this you might answer

wǒ zǎo jiù qǐ chuáng le 我早就起床了 (I early got up/ I got up ages ago)

This sentence doesn’t mean you got up early, just much earlier in the day. You might have got up at 1pm, which certainly isn’t early by most peoples’ standards. But 1pm would be much earlier than 4pm so you can still say wǒ zǎo jiù qǐ chuáng le to mean “I got up a while ago”.