This week at our Mandarin Song and Story Time, we read 大卫， 不可以！(Dàwèi , bù kěyǐ!) the Chinese translated version of ‘No, David!’ by David Shannon.
It is a simple book with the ‘No!’ and ‘’Don’t!’ things that adults often say to children. The illustrations are fun and convey all the meaning needed for reading in a second language, will encourage lots of discussion in both English and Chinese, and lots of repetition in the text to reinforce some key Chinese phrases.
Chinese doesn’t really have a word for ‘No!’ So instead the translators have used the modal verb ‘Can’ to translate ‘No’ in this context as ‘You can’t’. When we say ‘can’ in English, it can mean ‘you know how’, or that you ‘are able to’ or that you are ‘allowed to’, all depending on the context. In Chinese, there is a different modal verb for each one…’会 (huì), 能 (néng), and 可以 (kě yǐ)’. It is 可以 kě yǐ that is the one used to say that you are permitted or allowed to do something. At pre-school in China, when teachers are telling kids what ‘not to do’, it is this ‘不可以!’ (bù kěyǐ!) that is used…No! Don’t! For English learners of Chinese, learning how to use these different forms of ‘can’ in Chinese can be tricky. So this book is also great for older students of Chinese to reinforce the usage of one of these ‘can’ modal verbs. It will only take a couple of readings and some fun discussion of the illustrations to remember that ‘不可以!’ is the ‘can’ that means ‘allowed’ or ‘permitted’.
Of course the little ones at our story time will pick all this grammar up naturally just by enjoying the story!
Here is a song to practice singing bù kěyǐ!
可以去吗？不可以！(kěyǐ qù ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) go? (You) can’t!
可以买吗？不可以！(kěyǐ mǎi ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) buy (it)? (You) can’t!
以吃吗？不可以！(kěyǐ chī ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) eat (it)? (You) can’t!
以吗？ 不可以！(kěyǐ ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I)…? (You) can’t!
可以看吗？不可以！(kěyǐ kàn ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) watch (it)? (You) can’t!
可以穿吗？不可以！(kěyǐ chuān ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) wear (it)? (You) can’t!
可以走了吗？不可以！(kěyǐ zǒu le ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I) leave? (You) can’t!
可以吗？不可以！(kěyǐ ma? bù kěyǐ!) = Can (I)…? (You) can’t!