Translation Challenge: People on the Streets

For today’s translation challenge I’m going to give a description of ten different kinds of people you might see on the streets and I want you to see how many you can work out the names for in both English and Chinese. The answers are provided at the end of this full post.

Some different kinds of people you might see on the street:

1. You see someone wearing a yellow hardhat and vest and digging a hole in the side of the road.

2. You see someone lying by the side of the road sleeping alone.

3. You see someone near a stall shouting about some “bargain” watches they are selling.

4. You see someone playing guitar to a crowd of onlookers.

5. You see someone holding a big sign with angry writing on it.

6. You see someone wearing a police uniform who is supervising the crowd.

7. You see someone sweeping the ground to get rid of dust and rubbish.

8. You see someone waving prepaid tickets in the air for a concert being performed nearby.

9. You see someone with a big camera taking shots of a famous person getting out of a taxi.

10. You see someone sitting on the ground asking for money.



1. English: construction worker. Chinese: 建筑工人 jiànzhù gōngrén

2. English: homeless person or vagrant (formal). Chinese: 流浪汉 liúlànghàn, 游民 yóumín, 无业游民wúyè yóumín or 无家可归者 wújiākěguīzhě (formal)

3. English: hawker, peddler or street vendor (US). Chinese: 小贩 xiǎofàn, 攤販 tānfàn or 路邊攤 lùbiāntān

4. English: street performer or busker. Chinese: 街头艺人 jiētóu yìrén or 街头表演者 jiētóu biǎoyǎnzhě

5. English: protester or demonstrator. Chinese: 示威者 shìwēizhě

6. English: police officer or cop (informal). Chinese: 警官 jǐngguān, 警察 jǐngchá or 警員 jǐngyuán

7. English: (street) cleaner. Chinese: 清洁工 qīngjiégōng or 清道夫 qīngdàofū

8. English: scalper. Chinese: 黄牛 huángniú

9. English: paparazzo (note: plural is paparazzi). Chinese: 狗仔队 gǒuzǎiduì

10. English: beggar. Chinese: 乞丐 qǐgài

So tell me, how many did you manage to get, in both languages?


10 Comments to "Translation Challenge: People on the Streets"

  1. 18/05/2011 - 6:00 pm | Permalink

    An excellent collection! Just a couple of comments on (2): 无业游民 to me is not necessarily (in fact, not often) someone homeless; more like a bum than a vagrant. 无无家可归者 often refers to a “situation” in which the person is prevented from going home. It can be used to describe many situations, like, “I just left home after a big fight with my wife, 现在无家可归!“ to refugees. Ah, in addition, 街头露宿者 is a common term for “street sleepers”.

  2. aulie's Gravatar aulie
    19/05/2011 - 2:40 am | Permalink

    條子 is a putonghua/mandarin equivalent of “cop”. we call them差佬 in cantonese.

  3. helen's Gravatar helen
    08/06/2011 - 11:57 am | Permalink

    cleaner: 保洁人员,保洁工人

  4. Anne's Gravatar Anne
    18/06/2011 - 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Even if it refers to a special way of protesting, 访民 and 上访者 are often used in the chinese press for protester. It seems they even avoid to use 示威者。
    Quite difficult to find the exact translation for these 2 words. Do you think petitioner would be better, as all the 访民 are not necessarily demonstrating on the streeet?

    Thanks for your website!

  5. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    09/07/2011 - 10:08 am | Permalink

    Do people commonly use the word 乞丐 qǐgài?

  6. Bathrobe's Gravatar Bathrobe
    10/07/2011 - 1:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard of 要飯的, but maybe not quite suitable or contemporary.

    • Lydia's Gravatar Lydia
      01/08/2011 - 11:38 pm | Permalink

      要飯的 is more colloquial but not PC so be careful when you really want to use it.

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