We are forever being told that the best way to learn is to make mistakes, but it’s not often that we get to observe ourselves doing so. There have been a few times in my on/off attempts at learning Chinese when I’ve remembered things as a direct result of my mistakes.
I introduce you to 囤鼠, the storage mouse. I forget why, but I asked A. how to say guinea pig in Chinese. Without seeing the characters, I assumed that túnshǔ was 囤鼠 which translates literally as “storage mouse”.
Forgetting everything I knew about traditional household pets I assumed that the guinea pig was named 囤鼠 because it stored food in it’s cheeks. I was wrong on two counts:
- Guinea pigs don’t store food in their cheeks; that would be the hamster.
- The Chinese for guinea pig is 豚鼠, túnshǔ which sounds exactly the same as storage mouse, but is in fact a completely different character.
Realising my mistakes, I looked up the word for hamster. To my surprise, this really was a storage mouse; 仓鼠, cāngshǔ.
One week on, I can still remember the difference between a guinea pig, a hamster and a storage mouse. Learning from our own mistakes really is the best way to learn. If you are still struggling, the following vocabulary might help.
|鼠||shǔ||rat / mouse|
|囤||tún||to store / hoard|
|仓||cāng||barn / granary / storehouse|