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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Physical Examination in English and Chinese

Briefing

This is a demonstration of the most common steps involved in a physical examination, conducted by a physician in a hospital or general practice. Both the original recording in English, as well as the version translated into Mandarin, are provided. In both recordings, a beep is sounded at the end of each segment for the listener to pause and translate.

Important Notes

  • These recordings and transcripts are for interpreting training only, and should not be taken as medical advice or used as medical training material.
  • Most of the steps in this physical examination are adapted from the Duke PA Program Complete Physical Exam which can be viewed YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2).
  • I’ve tried to make the English as straight forward and non-technical as possible, but inevitably some parts may sound strange to those not familiar with physical examinations (e.g. the capillary refill time, translated as 微血管充填时间, a term I decided to leave out, though I kept the original test).
  • Although the Chinese was translated to make it sound as authentic as possible, some parts will sound a strange as the original was after all in English and some physical terms sound strange expressed in Chinese (e.g. frown, cross-eyed, etc.). Therefore, while the Chinese version is still useful for Chinese learners, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

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An Introduction to Criminal Law Terms in English and Chinese (+ Glossary)

The following is an introduction to commonly used terms in criminal law (刑法) that I’ve collected over the years of translating and teaching interpreting. The focus is mainly on vocabulary common in Australian and British law. At the end of this post is a glossary of all the terms mentioned (150 in total!)

Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert by any means, nor do I claim to be. The explanations and translations given here should be used for reference only. If you see anything that you think is inaccurate don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. I look forward hearing your feedback.

An Introduction to Criminal Law Terms in English and Chinese

Firstly, it is important to note the distinction between criminal law (刑法) and civil law (民法). Many Chinese students are confused about this because there is no distinction between prosecute or indict (the 起诉 process in criminal law) and sue (i.e. to file a lawsuit against someone, also known as 起诉 in Chinese, but can also be expressed as 诉讼, 打官司 or just 告 or 诉 in Taiwan). However in countries like Australia and Britain, the two processes are entirely different, with different terminology, criteria and penalties. Chinese also does not always make a distiction between a public trial and an interrogation in private – both can be referred to as 审讯.

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How to Describe Medical Symptoms in Chinese

Have been inspired recently to do more research into how a whole variety of medical symptoms can be expressed naturally in Chinese. Here is what I have found between reading a number of books and consulting with friends, both laypeople and medical experts alike. Enjoy!

 

How to Describe Medical Symptoms in Chinese

 

描述一般症状-Describing general symptoms

我身体不太舒服。
Wǒ shēntǐ bù tài shūfu.
I feel unwell.

我好像生病了。
Wǒ hǎoxiàng shēngbìng le.
I think I’ve come down with something.

我好像感冒了。
Wǒ hǎoxiàng gǎnmào le.
I think I’ve caught a cold.

我好像流感了。
Wǒ hǎoxiàng liúgǎn le.
I think I’ve got the flu.

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Common “Society Concepts” in Chinese

Recently I have been busy collecting common “society” concepts in Chinese that are difficult to translate due to social, cultural and political differences that exist between China and the West.

Here’s the results of my research.

20 Common “Society Concepts” in Chinese

1. 社会保障 (lit. “social ensurance”): social security
2. 社会安全 (lit. “social safety”): national security
3. 社会实践 (lit. “social practice”): work experience
4. 社会风气 (lit. “the atmosphere of society”): social morality; social standards
5. 社会热点 (lit. “the hot point of society”): hot topic
6. 社会渣滓 (lit. “the dregs of society”): the scum of society
7. 社会名流 (lit. “the famous people of society”): celebrities; public figures
8. 社会青年 (lit. “the youth of society”): uneducated and unemployed young people
9. 社会效益 (lit. “social benefit”): positive effects on society
10. 社会群体 (lit. “social group”): different groups in society
11. 社会团体 (lit. “society organistion”): community organisation
12. 社会新闻 (lit. “social news”): human-interest stories
13. 社会调查 (lit. “social investigation”): research into social trends
14. 社会利益 (lit. “social interest”): the public interest
15. 小康社会 (lit. “xiaokang society”): a developed, middle-class society
16. 上流社会 (lit. “upstream society”): high society; upper class
17. 下流社会 (lit. “downstream society”): the underworld
18. 整个社会 (lit. “the entire society”): society as a whole; society at large
19. 社会的阴暗面 (lit. “the dark side of society”): social evils/ills
20. 社会不安定因素 (lit. “unstable factors of society”): factors leading to social instability

I should also acknowledge that there are actually plenty of collocations which happen to exist natively in both English and Chinese. I’ve gathered 20 of the most common ones:

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