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7 Interesting Chinese Words That Have No English Translations

作者:纽带中文

If you've been studying Chinese for any period of time, you're most likely painfully aware of how different it is from English and other Western languages.

Different writing system, different grammar and even different sounds that take months and months of practice to be able to say properly.

Especially when you consider China's unique and preposterously old culture, it's not surprising that Mandarin also has a host of words that are really tough to translate into English.

So, below we've collected a handful of particularly interesting Chinese words you can't find in English for you all to enjoy!

And if you have more words in mind, share with us in the comments!


1. 热闹 Rè nao or 有人气 Yǒu rén qì

What do you think this word actually means? Try to guess based on this sentence: 这个聚会很热闹! (zhè ge wǎn huì hěn rè nào)

Do you think that I really mean “This party is very hot and noisy!"? Nope. What I'm trying to say is that this party is lively or bumping.

Basically, if something is 热闹 then you don't want to miss out on it!


2. 撒娇 Sā jiāo

Put this next word into Google Translate and you'll get "spoiled.” There's a bit more to this Chinese word though. It goes beyond just describing someone who gets whatever they want. Typically, 撒娇 is used to describe someone who throws a child-like temper-tantrum until she gets what she wants.


3. 孝顺 Xiào shùn

Meaning "obedience" or "filial piety", 孝顺 is a virtue that stems from Confucian thought. Someone who is 孝顺 is dutiful, respectful and takes care of their parents in their old age.



4. 关系 Guān xi


关系 roughly means "relationship" or "connection". In a business or professional context, developing your 关系 can be translated as "networking", and it takes place outside the workplace, during dinner banquets or tea. Good 关系 with the right people can open doors and is a mutually beneficial relationship that results in the exchange of favours. However, it's a subtle concept and should not be thought of as strictly transactional or as a type of bribery.



5. 慢走 Màn zǒu


慢走 literally means "walk slowly". It's a polite phrase used when an elder takes their leave or when a guest or loved one leaves your house. It's hard to explain why you would want someone to walk slowly, but it comes with connotations such as "please take it easy" or "have a pleasant journey."



6. 师傅 Shī fu


Note that 师父, which means something like "master", is pronounced the same way but written differently. The second term is used for martial arts instructors and spiritual figures such as monks or nuns.

Using this word is a polite way to address blue-collar workers, such as taxi drivers, mechanics, maintenance specialists, barbers, carpenters and more. It's a term of respect for someone who is a master of their craft.


7. 加油 Jiā yóu

Literally meaning "add oil" or "add fuel", this expression is used to cheer someone on. Depending on the context, it means something like "Go!" or "Do your best!" or "Keep going!"


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