When I wrote my previous article on The Two Key Concepts From 一 (yī, One), I mentioned that if you can draw a line from point A to point B, then you can already write several basic Chinese characters. Now, we are going to take a look at Chinese words that you might already know by their sound.
The words that you are going to read about are English loanwords. We are going to cover words from the fields of transportation, clothing, food, music, sports, and more.
I am continually fascinated by my students’ reactions when I ask them to guess what the following words mean. So, before you read this article, I would love to have you take a short quiz and see if you can guess what the words mean. I have created a Quizlet that you can find here. Once you have taken the test and written down the answers, let’s get started!
Traveling is one of the most common answers to the question “what are your hobbies?”. Although buses might not be most people’s favorite transportation method, they do allow you to take your time and enjoy the view as the bus picks people up at every stop. The most common term that Chinese people tend to use for a bus is 公交车 / gōng jiāo chē (bus). However, if you use the phrase 巴士 / bā shì (bus), they will still understand you.
- 交通 / jiāo tōng (transportation)
- 巴士 / bā shì (bus)
Maybe you are taking the bus to go to work, or maybe you are taking it on your way to buy some clothes -- namely t-shirts: T-恤.
- 衣服 / yī fu (clothes)
- T-恤 / T xù (t-shirts)
- 我昨天坐巴士去商店买了三件T-恤。// wŏ zuó tiān zuò bā shì qù shāng diàn măi le sān jiàn T xù。(Yesterday, I took the bus to the store and bought 3 T-shirts).
Or maybe your closet is already full of clothes; so you’d prefer to grab some food with your nearest and dearest instead.
- 食物 / shí wù (food)
- 咖啡 / kā fēi (coffee)
- 披萨 / pī sà (pizza)
- 巧克力 / qiăo kè lì (chocolate)
- 三明治 / sān míng zhì (sandwich)
- 可乐 / kĕ lè (Coca-Cola)
- 在美国很多人都有喝咖啡的习惯。/ zài mĕi guó hĕn duō rén dōu yŏu hē kā fēi de xí guàn 。(In the United States, many people have the habit of drinking coffee).
- 听说巧克力有提神的作用。/ tīng shuō qiăo kè lì yŏu tí shén de zuò yòng 。(I heard that chocolate can help you stay awake).
- 吃披萨一定要配可乐！/ chī pī sà yī dìng yào pèi kĕ lè！(You need to drink Coke when you eat pizza!).
Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year? Maybe yours is to learn how to play the guitar.
- 音乐 / yīn yuè (music)
- 麦克风 / mài kè fēng (microphone)
- 吉他 / jí tā (guitar)
- 因为我五音不全，所以当歌手是不可能的，但是最起码我还是可以学学弹吉他。/ yīn wèi wŏ wŭ yīn bù quán ， suŏ yĭ dāng gē shŏu shì bù kĕ néng de ， dàn shì zuì qĭ mă wŏ hái shi kĕ yĭ xué xué tán jí tā 。(Because I am tone deaf, it is impossible for me to become a singer. However, I can at least learn to play the guitar).
Or maybe your resolution is to run a marathon.
- 运动 / yùn dòng (exercises)
- 马拉松 / mă lā sōng (marathon)
- 高尔夫球 / gāo ĕr fū qiú (golf)
- 保龄球 / băo líng qiú (bowling)
- 我特别讨厌跑步，但是今年为了减肥，我参加了马拉松比赛！/ wŏ tè bié tăo yàn păo bù, dàn shì jīn nián wèi le jiăn féi, wŏ cān jiā le mă lā sōng bĭ sài！(I really hate running, but for the sake of losing weight this year, I signed up for a marathon!)
While I would love to nicely categorize everything, some words don’t fit neatly into categories; thus, I have collected them here:
- 其他 / qí tā (miscellaneous)
- 嗨 / hāi (hi)
- 哈喽 / hā lóu (hello)
- 黑客 / hēi kè (hacker)
- 黑 / hēi (hack)
- 沙发 / shā fā (sofa)
- 纽约 / niŭ yuē (New York)
- 拜拜 / bāi bai (bye-bye - make sure to pronounce this word with a first tone. When you pronounce it as a fourth tone, it’s meaning is “to pray”).
- 见面说哈喽，告别说拜拜。/ jiàn miàn shuō hā lóu, gào bié shuō bài bai 。(Say "hello" when you meet each other. Say "bye bye" when you leave).
- 昨天有个黑客黑了我的网页。/ zuó tiān yŏu gè hēi kè hēi le wŏ de wăng yè 。(Yesterday, a hacker hacked my web page).
- 我坐在沙发上哭了一整天。/ wŏ zuò zài shā fā shàng kū le yī zhĕng tiān 。(I sat on the sofa and cried all day).
What do you think of these English loanwords? Were you able to guess them correctly before reading this article?
I love loanwords because they are an indication of the interaction between different cultures and languages. It also makes learning fun by letting students know that there are some words that you already know even before you embark on your Chinese Mandarin journey! My favorite word from this list is 黑客 because of how 黑 can be used as a verb.
Do you have a favorite from this list? Comment below!