What is a Direct Object?

A direct object is the noun (person, place or thing) that receives the action of the verb.

In the sentence, I like cats, cats is the direct object. You can identify the direct object by asking what, who or where the verb is acting upon.

Another example:

I watch television. Ask yourself, what/who/where do I watch? The answer is television. Television is the direct object.

If we change the sentence to read I watch quietly and ask the question what/who/where do I watch? We discover we can’t answer the question! There is no direct object! (Quietly is an adverb, it describes the verb. But that’s another story; let’s save it for a future post.)

Action Verbs & Direct Objects

In Chinese, action verbs that have duration are always associated with a direct object.

It’s not enough to say 我吃 wo3 chi1 I eat. This sounds incomplete and is incorrect in Chinese. The action verb must be followed by a direct object, in this case, what you are eating.

Action verbs of duration usually have generic direct objects that act as placeholders. The contribute little, if any meaning to the verb. For example:

吃飯 chi1fan4 to eat (food, rice)

買東西 mai3dong1xi to buy (things)

看書 kan4shu1 to read (books)

走路 zou3lu4 to walk (street)

When a more specific or meaningful direct object is desired, the generic one can be swapped out. In the example 我吃飯 wo3 chi1fan4 I eat food, the word 飯 fan4 can be replaced by another, more specific noun like 水果shui3guo3 fruit.

The Indirect Kiss

kissA couple of days ago a Taiwanese friend excitedly texted me to say he had spent the evening out drinking with a new female friend, and they kissed- indirectly!

The actual text read: 我跟她間接接吻 wo3 gen1 ta1 jian4jie1 jie1wen3. Literally, I with her indirectly kiss.

I asked for clarification. I had never heard about this subtle art of “indirect kissing.” What was all the excitement about? What was I missing out on? I had to know!

It turns out the word 間接接吻 jian4jie1 jie1wen3 not only literally means indirectly kiss, but is commonly used and understood to describe the intimate act of touching one’s lips to some object that your friend or lover has also touched with their lips.

Basically, drinking out of the same beer bottle or eating something with the same pair of chopsticks is indirect kissing.

I asked another Taiwanese friend about indirect kissing. She giggled, and informed me that Taiwanese people don’t usually share things like a cup of tea or a fork. Occasionally close female friends may do this, but it almost never occurs between male friends. She says that indirect kissing is most common between lovers, as it is considered intimate to share one’s food or drink in this way.

How To Make Friends in Taiwan

Taiwanese people Wikipedians

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

中文版

I usually make friends quickly and easily anywhere I go. In fact, I always make friends in new places. But in Taiwan, my American style friend-making skills are of little use.

Taiwanese people don’t make eye contact with strangers in public. You won’t find them making idle chitchat with random people in line at Starbucks. If approached by a stranger, Taiwanese people expect a request of information, such as directions to the nearest MRT station. If you don’t make a direct request of some kind, they tend to become suspicious of your intent.

So how do Taiwanese people make friends? If chatting up strangers isn’t couth, then what’s left? There are three legitimate and proper ways to successfully make friends in Taiwan.

  1. Formal introductions. You can become friends with someone if a mutual friend or acquaintance introduces you. This is a catch 22 for foreigners like me, who show up with zero friends. It takes friends to make friends.
  2. Mutual activities. You meet someone at work, school, or at an ongoing activity that you both participate in, like a book club or art class. Over time you become familiar with each other and become friends. The downside is it can take a long time.
  3. The internet. Making friends on the internet requires no formal introduction nor mutual participation in a shared activity. It is a widely accepted method of meeting people, and all you need is an internet connection.

Beginner’s Foundation: Getting Past Giving Up

Kuan-In-Mountain-Taipei

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been back in Taipei less than a week but I already feel like I’m gaining momentum with Chinese learning. I’m not sure what happened, it feels mysterious and nonlinear. I did weekly language exchange while back in California for the past couple of months, but my engagement wasn’t deep nor frequent. It’s like the bombardment of immersion somehow quietly took root without me knowing it.

My mind feels softer, more supple, and I’m wrangling with construction less. Mind you I am still in the beginner phase of learning. But I’ve shifted from that awful, miserable total beginner stage to a more relaxed beginner who understands or at least recognizes a smattering of words in natural conversation. I have been surprising myself with my ability to form basic sentences on the fly!

I interpret this to mean I’ve finally created a sufficient foundation, a framework on which I get to hang new words. This is when language learning starts to become fun and exciting. Once the foundation is laid, new information can be plugged into the existing knowledge base, and the pace of learning picks up. New words are assimilated and remembered more easily. The knowledge base expands and more and more of the language becomes accessible.

Building the foundation is arguably the hardest part in the language learning journey. It certainly is the least rewarding, with the least amount of quantifiable progress. It’s the stage where most people give up. In the beginning nothings makes sense and the bits and pieces of language are free floating. Weaving them together to build the foundation takes tenacity, motivation, and good old fashion practice.

My flight instructor once put it this way: The early stage of developing a skill is a lot like tapping on a big boulder. You keep knocking away at it, but nothing seems to happen. But if you do it long enough, eventually the boulder will split into more manageable sized pieces. I like this analogy because the early stages of acquiring any new skill feels exactly like that!