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Why I Let the Crocodile Eat Me in Chinese - Fun Tricks to Learn Sentence Structure

Just like crisis can bring deeper bond to relationships, conversing about intense, real life situations can aid in the learning of a new language. While text books and formatted study programs can become dry, there is something about discussing personal adventures that seems to stimulate absurd sentences and aid the memory in unique ways.

Take my recent experience in crocodile territory, for instance. During my subsequent Chinese lesson, we came up with all kinds of laughable sentences that helped me grasp sentence structure that had evaded me before. And, whereas talking about the crocodile eating me in my native tongue was horribly distressing, talking about it in Chinese relieved tension because I was learning something in the process and playing with word order.

Word order in Chinese is especially important because of the lack of tenses in verbs. So, the first part of a sentence needs to indicate “when” something is happening, if that information is going to be relayed at all. Such order is also very important for conveying the subject and object involved, that is, who (subject noun) is doing what to whom/what (object noun of action).

But even in the Chinese language, they have ways to mix up word order IF you use the correct word/character signals first. Thus, learning to discuss whether I was eating the crocodile or the crocodile was eating me, was great fun. And in the process, I came up with the idea of making a purse out of the crocodile. Here are some of my sentences:



(bu2 xing4),(wo3)( bei4)(e4 yu2)(chi1) (le)

(not lucky), (I)(by)(crocodile)(eat)(indicates completed action)

Unfortunately, I have been eaten by a crocodile。



(zhen1)(xing4yun4)!(wo3)(ba3)(e4 yu2)(chi1 le)

(really)(lucky)!(I)(positional word to let me move direct object of “crocodile” in front of verb)(crocodile)(eat)(indicates completed action)

It is definitely fortunate! I ate the crocodile.


我想買鱷魚皮的皮包, 因為讓我覺得有力。

(wo3)(xiang3)(mai3)(e4 yu4)(pi2 de)(pi2 bao1),(yin1 wei4)(rang4)(wo3)(jue2 de)(you3 li4)

(I)(think)(buy)(crocodile)(leather)(“leather” purse),(because)(makes/let)(me)(feel)(power)

I am thinking of buying a crocodile leather purse, because it will make me feel powerful.



(wo3 de)(xian1 sheng1)(hua1)(si4 ge)(xiao3 shi2)(zhao3 xun2)(e4 yu2)

(My)(husband)(spend)(four)(hours)(look for)(crocodile)

My husband spent four hours looking for a crocodile.



(wo3)(xiang3)(wo3)(chi1)(e4 yu2)(bi3)(e4 yu2)(chi1)(wo3)(hao3)

(I)(think)(me)(eat)(crocodile)(word used to add ”er” to comparative word and followed by “than”)(crocodile)(eat)(me)(good)

I think for me to eat the crocodile is better (gooder) than for the crocodile to eat me.



(e4 yu2)(bu2 pa4)(wo3 men)。(ta1 men)(xiang3)(chi1)(wo3 men)

(Crocodile) (not afraid) (us). (They) (think) (eat) (us)

The crocodile is not afraid of us. It thinks to eat us.



(wo3)(ba3)(e4 yu2)(sha1 si3)( le)

(I)(positional word to let me move direct object of “crocodile” in front of verb)(crocodile)(kill)(indicating an action completed)

I killed the crocodile.



(zuo2 tian1)(cong2)(xia4wu3)(yi1 dian3)(dao4)(wu3 dian3)(wo3 men)(yi1 zhi2)(zai4)(lie4 xun2)(e4 yu2)

(yesterday)(from)(afternoon)(one o’clock)(to/arrive at)(five o’clock)(we)(continuously)(”ing” to be attached to following verb)(hunt)(crocodile)

Yesterday afternoon, from 1:00 until 5:00 we were continuously hunting crocodile.


And there you have it. Some of my therapy to recover from the emotional trauma of my crocodile hunt, put to good use learning Chinese sentence structure. I cannot say I am sorry for the crocodiles I have hunted and killed during the process. Maybe next week, spiders?






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