Matt and Jian’s English Class 4: Let’s go to the beach

Cottesloe Beach at sunset

Ninmen Hao!

Welcome to today’s class. We are going to Australia (ÀodàlìyÇŽ), to go to the beach (hÇŽitān). I will talk about beach activities for 40 minutes or so, and then we can discuss the things I’ve talked about before our break (for twenty minutes). In the second part, I will tell you more about some of the beaches of Sydney (XÄ«ní) and Perth (Pò sÄ«), and we can have another discussion at the end.

Part One:  Some popular Australian beach activities

Most people in Australia live along the coast (bīn), so the beach plays a key role in their way of life (hēnghuó fāngshì). Children are taught (jiào) to swim from a young age (niánqīng de shíhòu) so that they will be safe (Ānquán) in the water, and so they can enjoy (qǐng xiǎngyòng) swimming [yóuyǒng de] and other activities in or on the water.

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Learning to exhale

My brother and sister and I learned to swim when we were young in the 1970s. At that time the method (fāngfÇŽo) of teaching children was pretty funny (hÄ›n yÇ’uqù). The school group (xuéxiào zÇ”) was taken (cÇŽiqÇ”) to the deep end (kùnjìng) of the swimming pool (yóuyÇ’ngchí) and one by one (yÄ«gè jiÄ“ yÄ«gè) the teachers (jiàoshÄ«) threw (rÄ“ng) us in. If you floated up (fú qǐlái) and swam (yóu), they put you in the advanced class (gāojí bān). If you sank down (chénmò) and they had to pull you out (bÇŽ nǐ lā chÅ«lái), they put you in the beginners class (chÅ« xuézhÄ› bān). I like to think their “sink or swim” (xià chén huò yóuyÇ’ng) method tells us something about Australian culture (wénhuà).

We were taught different styles of swimming like the crawl (páxíng), butterfly stroke [húdié zhòngfēng] [ (very difficult), breaststroke [wāyǒng][ (like a frog, 青蛙), and backstroke (yǎngyǒng).


Many Australians like to swim in the ocean (hÇŽiyáng). Some people like the surf (chōnglàng), and enjoy bodysurfing (túshÇ’u chōnglàng). To body surf well you need to watch and wait (guānkàn bìng dÄ›ngdài) for the wave (bō) coming towards the shore (zhÄ«chÄ“ng), waiting for the moment when (nà shíhòu) you think it will peak (dàodá gāo diÇŽn) before crashing down (hōngrán dào xià). That point, the peak, is when you should catch the wave, so you should swim fast to get just in front (ài qiánmiàn) of the wave’s peak, then it will carry you (dài nǐ) along for a ride.

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Older swimmers bodysurfing at Bondi Beach

If you swim too slowly (tài mànle), the wave will just pass you by. If you swim too fast (kuàisù), it will “dump” (qÄ«ngdÇŽo) you (which means it will crash down on you, and then you will turn somersaults (fān fānshÄ“n) through the water on your way to the shore). Also, the shape and size (xíngzhuàng hé dàxiÇŽo) of the wave will affect how good a ride you can enjoy. If the wave is too steep (tài dÇ’u) and falls quickly (xùnsù xiàjiàng), it is more likely  (gèng qÄ«ngxiàng yú) to dump you. If the wave is too small then you might not get a good ride.


Some swimmers like the board sports (bǎn qiú yùndòng) that can be enjoyed in the surf. Children and less advanced swimmers like the boogie boards you can use to catch a wave, lying on your belly (dùpí).

boogie boarding

Wave skis (bōlàng huáxuě) are used by paddling (xì) in a sitting position and can be used for traveling across flat water or for catching waves.

waveskiing 1

Surfboards (chōnglàng bÇŽn) are used by paddling onto the wave belly down on the board, and then getting to your knees (xÄ«gài) and feet to ride the wave. This sport – known as surfing – takes great strength and balance (lìliàng hé pínghéng). Surfing started as a male sport (yùndòng) but now increasingly includes women.
A woman surfer enjoying a good ride

There are groups of older citizens (lǎonián rén) who love swimming in the ocean and the surf, some of them do this every day of the year regardless of the weather. I remember seeing the gentlemen and ladies of the Cottesloe swimming club (yóuyǒng jùlèbù) standing and chatting (liáotiān de) in the water on a winters day, while I was only brave enough to quickly jump in and out (tiào chūlái) again before running home to get warm. These elder swimmers are strong and tough (qiángyìng).

Cottesloe beach early morning swimmers
members of the Bondi Icebergs, many of who are 50+

All of these surf sports, swimming, surfing, wave-skiing, stand-up boarding, boogie-boarding, and surfing are very good exercise.

Standup paddling with dogs

People also like to use the beach for running and walking. Running in the soft beach sand is very hard work, and good for making strong legs. Running on the hard sand near the water is much easier, and it’s nice to run or walk through the cool shallow water.

Soft sand running at Bondi beach

Australian people like to play sports like beach volleyball (shātān páiqiú) or beach cricket (shātān bǎn qiú) and do activities like yoga and tai-chi on the beach. A beach is a good place for spiritual [jīngshén] (or meditative) [chénsī] practices like yoga (yújiā) because it is a very peaceful (níngjìng) place. The beach is the place where the land, sea, and sky (lùdì hé tiānkōng) meet, and the rhythmic (yǒubǎnyǒuyǎn) sound of the waves crashing is soothing (fǔwèi de).

yoga at icebergs club bondi
Yoga at Bondi beach

Part two: ways of enjoying the beauty of the beach

Walking along a beach and picking up the small shells (bèiké), sponges (hǎimián), corals (shānhú), and driftwood [fú mù] (flotsam and jetson) is delightful (yǐ) because these small items seem like interesting or beautiful gifts (lǐpǐn) from the sea.  This is known as beach combing (hǎitān shūlǐ), which literally (Ànzhào zìmiàn) means combing the beach for treasures (zhēnpǐn).

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Seashells at Floreat Beach by “”

Different kinds of beaches are good for different activities and different groups of people. Some like a sheltered (bìfÄ“ng) beach with calm flat water (píngjìng píngtÇŽn de shuǐ), and some like a beach open to the ocean, preferably with a reef (jiāo) that helps make waves big enough for surf. Two of Sydney’s beautiful beaches – Bondi and Bronte – provide for both groups because each has a sheltered swimming pool next to the ocean’s surf.

Bronte Beach two views
Bondi Icebergs  swimming pool

Just across the water from my Australian home town Perth is the island of Wadjemup/Rottnest (the first being the name the Noongar people (the Indigenous group)  of this area gave it, the latter being the name the European explorers gave it). This is a great place for sheltered (bìfēng) swimming, surfing, and for under-water activities like snorkeling (fú qiǎn) and scuba-diving (shuǐ fèi qiánshuǐ).

rottesnest beach
view from a reef at Rottnest/Wadjemup
the snorkeler’s view Rottnest/Wadjemup island

Like Wadjemup/Rottnest, Cottesloe beach is great for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling.

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Snorkelers underwater at Cottesloe beach

On some of the quieter and more remote beaches in Australia, you can meet some of the continent’s interesting animals and birds (dòngwù hé niÇŽo lèi).

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Wadjemup/Rottnest quakkas

These little marsupials (yÇ’u dài dòngwùare) called “quakkas” and they live on Wadjemup/Rottnest (and nowhere else). They look pretty happy and children love to feed them (but shouldn’t). The kangaroos (dàishÇ”) below are much shyer (hàixiÅ«) and unlikely to come near a person in the wild (làng).

Cape le Grande national Park
Cape le Grand kangaroos

The Pelican (tí) can be found on many Australian beaches. This one, on Rottnest’s Thompson Bay, had my nephew and niece (zhízi hé zhínÇša) little worried (dānxÄ«n).

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A Pelican on Wadjemup/Rottnest

Seagulls (hÇŽi’ōu) are also very common and infamous (chòumíng zhāozhù) for aggressively (jÄ«jí) chasing food (you might as well just give it to them).

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Feeding the seagulls, Wadjemup/Rottnest

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