15 Chinese Words Which Have More Than One Meaning in English

I’ve always been curious about words in Chinese which can refer to two more different meanings in English. Here are 15 words I could think of that I have encountered before. If you can think of any more please let me know by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post!

 

1. 笑 xiào

笑 can mean both “smile” and “laugh”. To avoid possible confusion, the terms 微笑 and 大笑 can be used respectively. “Laughter” is translated as 笑声; “laughable” as 可笑. In most cases, context will make the intended meaning clear. For example, in the sentence 如果做得不好,请别见笑 it goes without saying that a person would laugh at someone’s poor job, rather than merely smile at it. Similarly, in the phrase 笑得很灿烂 (literally, “to xiao in a slendid and dazzling way”) it should be clear that “smile” is being referred to.

 

2. 声音 shēngyīn

声音 can mean both “voice” and “sound” in general. Context should make it obvious which sense is being referred to. For example, in the sentence 这女孩的声音很低沉 it would be absurd to translate it as “this girl’s sound is low and deep” – obviously it is her voice which is low and deep. In the same way, in the sentence 关门的声音把他唤醒过来 it must be the sound of a door shutting that woke the person up, since a door cannot speak obviously.

 

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Random Word Trivia #10

See how many of these random words you can guess the English and Chinese for!

1. You have a bad habit, like smoking or gambling.

2. You have a tool that enables you to appear taller than what you are.

3. You look really similar to a celebrity.

4. You have an argument with someone because your personality is different to theirs.

5. You are paid money to keep your mouth shut.

6. You are walking through a city, looking for a something which is recognisable from a distance.

7. You are a woman, and this is your bedroom.

8. You are someone who never shuts up.

9. You remove hair from your body with a sticky kind of substance.

10. You have been asked to stand in the background at the filming of a movie.

11. You have a floor covering made of straw, imported from Japan.

12. You see a seat on the train that is for people with disabilities and pregnant woman.

13. You see a list of the main things that need to be learnt in your textbook.

14. You notice a lot of people are obsessed with something, but you don’t think it will be popular for very long.

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14 Nouns That Are Countable in Chinese (But Not in English)

The following is a list of words that are countable in Chinese but not in English. I think this article will be beneficial for both learners of English and Chinese. Enjoy!

 

1. 信息 (news)

Chinese example sentence: 我有个好消息要告诉你。
Literal translation: I have a good news to tell you.
Idiomatic translation: I have some good news to tell you.

Chinese example sentence: 这些信息是不对的。
Literal translation: These information are incorrect.
Idiomatic translation: This information is incorrect.

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250 Physical Verbs in English and Chinese

I’ve always wanted to compile a list of verbs in English and Chinese that involve physical actions, as I believe these are some of the trickiest types of vocabulary to master. They’re tricky because, although they’re the kind of things we do on a daily basis, we rarely think about how to express them clearly in our first language – let alone our second.

I’ve broken up this list into nine categories, covering almost any type of physical verb you could think of.

  • Head, hair and face: 18
  • Mouth and throat: 18
  • Eyes and brows: 17
  • Utterances: 20
  • Hands and arms: 51
  • Legs and feet: 20
  • Whole body: 56
  • Displays of affection: 18
  • Acts of violence: 32
  • Total: 250

 Let’s get started!

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A Comprehensive Guide to Euphemisms in Chinese and English

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of euphemisms in language – that is, words and expressions which allow you to express something without doing so in a direct way. In Chinese they are known as 婉辞, though in daily conversation it is more common to hear them described as 委婉语 or 委婉的说法.

Here are some common examples of euphemisms in English:

– If a mother says her son has “special needs”, it means her son has a disability.

– If a politician says he’s sorry for being “economical with the truth”, it means he is sorry for having been caught out lying.

– If a man says he went to a “gentlemen’s club” to see some “exotic dancers”, he means he went to a strip club to see some strippers.

It is also interesting that whether a certain term can be considered a euphemism is often a matter of opinion. For example, I have heard it claimed that the term “sex worker” is a euphemism, but I think of it rather as a direct and clear way of indicating a particular profession without using the term “prostitution” which often carries negative connotations.

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50 Skills and Abilities in Chinese

Lately I’ve noticed that Chinese has many words to describe skills and abilities that English lacks. While some like 杂技 and 想像力 are easy to translate, others are notoriously difficult In particular I found 内功, 号召力 and 悟性 real challenges.

Here’s the list I’ve compiled. Note that there are four main suffixes that describe skills and abilities in Chinese – 1) 艺, 2) 技, 3) 功 & 功夫 and 4) 力& 能力. Please let me know if you have any comments about the English translations.

 

50 Skills and Abilities in Chinese

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Vocabulary for the NAATI Professional Interpreting Examination (English and Chinese)

As I just took my NAATI Professional Interpreting Exam (NAATI三級口譯考試) last week, I thought I’d share with you the vocabulary that I have collected over the past year in preparing for it.

There are ten glossaries in total, each with 30 words in total, including:

  1. 30 Legal Terms in English and Chinese
  2. 30 Medical Terms in English and Chinese
  3. 30 Finance & Banking Terms in English and Chinese
  4. 30 Business Terms in English and Chinese
  5. 30 Housing Terms in English and Chinese
  6. 30 Education Terms in English and Chinese
  7. 30 Employment Terms in English and Chinese
  8. 30 Social Welfare Terms in English and Chinese
  9. 30 Immigration Terms in English and Chinese
  10. 30 Ethics Terms in English and Chinese

If you can spot any translation errors please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section. Many of these terms are tricky to get right!

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