The washing machine is broken, they have been working on it for what seems hours and you hear heated discussion about a key electrical part of the machine that seems to be at fault. You want to improve your vocabulary so you inquire what the part in question is called in Chinese. 零件, 零件, 零件! língjiàn. My dictionary just says spare parts. I explore further - this word can be applied to anything, mechanical or electrical I guess, that makes up the whole. There are examples everywhere around the house. Your mobile phone has hundreds of them, all called 零件.
I don't actually need to know the technical name for this part - in English at the very least we would call it a switch. We would probably have an even more sophisticated name for it. But in China it is just a 零件. And now I have a word for thousands of things I may come across in everyday life. No longer will I have to say 这个东西。
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