Field Notes

Even though it might seem like a no-brainer to you, enough people have commented on my little notebook that I thought it merited a short post.I rarely leave home without my little notebook:

  • I have a medium-sized notebook so I can write little phrases on one line. But it still fits in my pocket.
  • On the left-hand pages I write single vocabulary words. I suggest writing them with English on the left like this: “English word = yīngwén dāncí 英文单词”. I haven’t always done it like that but it makes it real hard to “look up” a word if my eyes are first hitting a bunch of pinyin. Also, if I’m walking, thinking my little thoughts, and I suddenly realize there’s a word I want to know, I immediately write the English word and leave the Chinese side blank until I get the answer, like “escalator = ” (it’s the same as “elevator” by the way: “diàntī 电梯”)
  • On the right-hand pages I write phrases or little proverbs. Ideally (although I’m way behind), a native-speaker informant would record each of these phrases, as well as saying the page number, so I can memorize whole chunks of tonally correct Chinese.
  • I laminated the outside cover of my notebook with packaging tape so that rain won’t wreak immediate havoc on it.

Organize it however you want, but I strongly recommend carrying a field notebook whenever Chinese interaction, or even dead time that you might want to use as study time, is on the horizon.

Comments

  1. zì dòng lóu tī is actually the term, but I am almost sure this is abbreviated in common use…I just can’t remember the abbreviation right now. Ask for directions to the diàn tī and you are sure to be sent toward an elevator.

  2. I asked a friend about this while shopping at wangfujing today…turns out most people do say dian ti for both, but she agreed it was confusing and that if a laowai asked, they would probably be pointed to an elevator, but a local might be pointed to an escalator…I didn’t get into why.

    However, I was walking around another place and noted that the characters on signs read dian ti(电梯) for elevator and fu ti(扶梯)for escalator, which also simply means “ladder”, but the international sign/symbol was clearly an escalator.

  3. Sounds somehow typically difficult to get to the bottom of.

    For all we know some day someone will point us to a “dian ti” that really means “shocking horse hoof” and then we’ll die because we touched it and didn’t know it was a sometimes-lethal traditional Chinese cure for kidney stones.

    I think I’ll just take the stairs.

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