Cultural Differences Between Chinese and Westerners: Part 1

Cultural Differences Between Chinese and Westerners: Part 1

浅谈中西文化差异(上)

 

During the last century, contact between Chinese and Westerners was relatively limited, and both people knew little about the other. Now we have more opportunities than ever for exchange. With that, however, comes a need for greater understanding of cultural differences. Today I’d like to talk about some of these with you.

在上个世纪里, 中国人与西方人之间的联系相对来说很有限,他们互相也不怎么了解对方。现在我们有了比以前更多的机会进行互动交流。然而,这也意味着我们需要更深入地了解文化差异。今天我想跟大家聊一下这个方面。

Greetings are an important part of every language in the world. However, people in China and the West greet people in very different ways. Because of this, care needs to be taken to avoid causing offence or misunderstandings.

在世界上的每一种语言中,打招呼都是很重要的部分。不过在中国和在西方,人们打招呼的方式不尽相同。正因为如此,我们需要特别注意,以免冒犯对方或是造成误解。

I had no idea about this when I first arrived in Hong Kong. I remember going to a bank, and the employee there asking me if I had had my lunch. You can imagine my surprise; in Britain, we would take such a question as an indirect invitation to eat together. Later at school I was even more surprised when my teacher asked me the same question.

当我第一次到香港的时候,我并不了解这个。还记得有一次我去银行,那里的工作人员问我吃过午餐了没。你应该能想象到我有多惊讶;在英国,我们会把这种提问理解成是在间接地邀请一个人吃饭。后来在学校,当我的老师也问了同样的问题时,我就更醉了。 Read more »

Random Trivia #12 – Interesting Conditions

Test your English and Chinese vocabulary level! See how many of these words you can guess. Today’s theme is interesting conditions. Here’s a tip: most of them (but not all) end in 病 bìng (“sickness”) or 症 zhèng (“disease”). Also note many of these are new and popular expressions in Chinese, and some do not have equivalent expressions in English. Good luck and have fun!

  1. You are a young woman who acts like a spoilt little princess.
  2. You are a man who treats woman like they are inferior to you.
  3. You have many important things to do, but you keep putting them off.
  4. You keep doing the same little meaningless things over and over again.
  5. You find it very difficult to make decisions.
  6. You are obsessed with keeping things clean.
  7. You have a number of uncomfortable symptoms but you don’t know what is wrong with you exactly.
  8. You are unreasonably jealous towards other people.
  9. You are in love with yourself.
  10. You are in love with someone so much that it makes you sick.
  11. You believe everyone is out to get you.
  12. You are a girl who, upon seeing two boys together, fantasises they are gay.
  13. Your behaviour is very stupid andYou are so nice to everyone, even people who don’t like you. different to everyone else.
  14. You are so nice to everyone, even people who don’t like you.
  15. You are like a little kid and believe you are a character out of a cartoon or movie.
  16. You did something bad, and now you are sick because of it.

Read more »

Top 80 Most Common Polite Expressions in Chinese

Polite expressions (礼貌用语 lǐmào yòngyǔ) are often neglected by learners of Chinese. They are rarely covered in textbooks, and there is a general misconception that Chinese does not have many such expressions. While “manners” as we understand them in English-speaking countries are not typically observed in modern-day China, it would be incorrect to claim that the Chinese do not have expressions they can be used to convey courtesy and consideration when necessary. Indeed, you’ll find that the vast majority in this huge list are commonly used in every day conversation.

 

Types of polite expressions

Polite expressions in Chinese can be broken down into the following categories:

敬词 jìngcí, “honorifics”: These include expressions that convey respect to those being spoken to, such as 您好 nínhǎo (“hello” [polite]), 请 qǐng (“please”), 谢谢 xièxie (“thank you”), 稍等 shāoděng (“one moment”), etc.

客套话 kètàohuà, “polite formulas”: These include conventional greetings that show respect and concern for the other person, such as 慢走 mànzǒu (“take care”), 打扰 dǎrǎo (“[sorry to] bother [you]”), 辛苦 xīnkǔ (“you’ve worked so hard”), 恭喜 gōngxǐ (“congratulations”), etc.

普通词 pǔtōngcí, “ordinary words”: These include ordinary expressions that can be used to convey polite sentiments, such as随时 suíshí (“at any time”), 高兴 gāoxìng (“pleased”), 来 lái (“come”), 放心 fàngxīn (“rest assured”), etc.

短语 duǎnyǔ, “phrases”: These include everyday expressions that make up a full sentence, such as你吃了吗?nǐ chī le ma? (“have you eaten?”), 不用谢 bù yòng xiè (“you’re welcome”), 没关系 méiguānxi (“no problem”), 慢慢吃 mànmàn chī (“take your time eating”), etc.

Others: There are also some minor sub-categories such as 谦词 qiāncí (self-deprecatory expressions), 婉词 wǎncí (euphemisms) and 敬称 jìngchēng (terms of respect). These could all be blog entries of their own.

It should be noted that these labels are not set in stone. Sometimes it can be difficult to work out which term fits into which category, and how they differ from each other is not always very clear.

The polite expressions in this list I have come up with are more or less in order of everyday frequency, with the first 50 or so being the most common expressions. Expressions towards the end of the list are more common in highly formal or literary contexts.

One more thing: I have not included words for people in society like老师 lǎoshī (“teacher”), 同志 tóngzhì (“comrade”), 先生 xiānsheng (“mister”), 小姐 xiǎojiě (“miss”), 师傅 shīfu (“master”), 朋友 péngyou (“friend”), 哥哥 gēge (“older brother”), 阿姨 āyí (“aunty”), etc., though these are obviously common and important words in Chinese.

Enjoy!

 

 

Top 80 Most Common Polite Expressions in Chinese

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Interpreting Speech #10 – Frankston City Council (English-into-Mandarin)

Briefing

Here is the briefing. You do not need to interpret the briefing.

You have been called to interpret for a visiting delegation from China. They are attending an information session being held by an employee of Frankston City Council.

End of briefing. Speech starts now.

Listen to Speech

Interpreting Speech #10 – Frankston City Council (English-into-Mandarin)

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Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters

The following is a list of characters that are most likely to confuse Chinese learners of different levels.

I recommend you have a go at the dictation practices first to see how many you can write from memory.

 

Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters

Dictation Practice

Beginner

Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters (Beginner)

Intermediate

Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters (Intermediate)

Advanced

Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters (Advanced)

 

Top 258 Most Commonly Confused Chinese Characters

Transcript

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Beginner’s Guide to Chinese History #1: The Periodization of Ancient Chinese History

Hi everyone. I’m creating this podcast for Chinese learners who want to learn a bit about Chinese history. Each podcast provides a concise, easy-to-understand introduction to a particular aspect of Chinese history. It is also a useful resource for listening practice, as I’ve asked my friends to speak clearly and at a slow pace. I promise that no “big words” will be used – all the content is in layman’s terms, and is considered common knowledge in China. Enjoy!

 

中国历史新手指南

Beginner’s Guide to Chinese History

 

第一集:中国古代历史的阶段划分

#1: The Periodization of Ancient Chinese History

Listen to this episode of the podcast here:
Beginner’s Guide to Chinese History: #1: The Periodization of Ancient Chinese History

 

 

Episode Transcript

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Top 12 Errors in Chinese English Dictionaries

Top 12 Errors in Chinese English Dictionaries
中英字典中的12个最常见错误

One of the challenges that Chinese learners of English face is being misled by Chinese English dictionaries, especially online ones. The following is a list of the 12 most common errors I have come across in my translating and teaching work. 学习英文的中国人面临的挑战之一是中英字典的误导,特别是在线的字典。以下是我在翻译和教学过程中遇到的12个最常见的错误。
Read more »

400 Unique Sounds in Mandarin Chinese

How to use this resource

1. Find a native speaker of Chinese, preferably one who speaks standard Mandarin, and of the same gender.

2. Ask the speaker to pronounce each of these characters one by one.

3. Shadow the speaker with your own attempts at pronunciation, trying to sound as similar to them as possible.

4. Circle any pronunciations you have difficulty imitating and practice these daily until you sound closer to your native speaker friend.

5. For better results, record your session and play it back later to ‘hear’ the difference between your utterances and that of your friend.

6. When in doubt, listen to the mp3 recording.

I have chosen these 400 characters because they make up virtually all sounds in Mandarin – excluding, of course, variations in tone. This resource is best used as a quick diagnostic tool for learners of Chinese who wish to figure out which sounds they need to work on. Enjoy!

 

Links to PDFs

400 Unique Sounds in Mandarin Chinese (Simplified Chinese Version)

400 Unique Sounds in Mandarin Chinese (Traditional Chinese Version)

 

Audio Recordings

400 Unique Sounds in Mandarin Chinese (Male Voice)

400 Unique Sounds in Mandarin Chinese (Female Voice)

Top 20 Most Common Pronunciation Errors by Chinese Learners

Top 20 Most Common Pronunciation Errors by Chinese Learners

  1. 日 rì & 热 rè
  2. 脏 zāng & 张 zhāng
  3. 撤 chè & 策 cè
  4. 努 nǔ & 女 nǚ
  5. 七 qī & 吃 chī
  6. 饿 è & 二 èr
  7. 谈 tán & 糖 táng
  8. 金 jīn & 京 jīng
  9. 摸 mō & 哞 mōu
  10. 乱 luàn & 论 lùn
  11. 全 quán & 群 qún
  12. 染 rǎn & 软 ruǎn
  13. 汪 wāng (wuang)
  14. 弯 wān (wuan)
  15. 温 wēn (wun)
  16. 翁 wēng (wong)
  17. 窝 wō (wuo)
  18. 烟 yān (yian)
  19. 优 yōu (yiou)
  20. 庸 yōng (yiong)

Listen to the podcast to understand how they are commonly mispronounced.

After that, have a listen to how all the words are pronounced by a native speaker.

For shadowing exercises, male students should imitate the male version, female students the female version.

Podcast: Top 20 Most Common Pronunciation Errors by Chinese Learners
Shadowing Practice: Male Native Speaker Pronunciation
Shadowing Practice: Female Native Speaker Pronunciation