Home | View by Topics

40. What Impressed Me the Most about Mandarin Slang?

 
Because of the rapid and consistent economic of Taiwan and China, Mandarin is settling to be the 'language of the future' (second only to French). According to the reports from the British Council, lack of Mandarin tutors has held the United Kingdom back in recent years, and that a new centre will be set up in London in 2015 to increase the number of Mandarin teachers available- with the objective of doubling the number of students learning Mandarin in the United Kingdom by 2019. Also, like any other language, Mandarin has its own slang or terms of expression. However, it is unique in a sense that studying Mandarin- even for years does not really make you to know how to talk like the native Chinese; thus, making it different from many other languages. Therefore, being an indigenous of an English speaking country- the Gambia, where seeing or even hearing someone speaking Mandarin is rather uncommon, coming to a Mandarin speaking country like Taiwan does not only drowned me into a pool of native speakers but has also given me inexplicable natural opportunity to be able to develop competencies in a second language that is of course gaining popularity worldwide.

     Learning Mandarin is quite fascinating, but it’s also a difficult task, and I believe (maybe wrongly, maybe not) that it’s harder than learning any other language. It’s tough not only because of the tones, the differences in grammar and the fact that the ideograms are a whole new level of reading and writing, but because, besides each character having its own meaning –which can change depending with which other ideograms you group them– , there is also, as you would imagine, the slang.

     When we talk about slang in different cultures, sometimes we can somehow understand some of its meaning. For example in English when someone says “I need to catch some Z’s”, somehow you know it means to get some sleep, since we tend to imagine –thanks to cartoons and comic books we read when we were kids– a person with Z’s coming out of their head while napping, which is also the result of the onomatopoeia we attribute to snoring; or when you say that someone “kept his cool”, you know they mean the person in question was calm the whole time. But in Mandarin there is something about some of the slang that surprised me and that I thought it was pretty interesting.

Mandarin is a very interesting language that caught my attention since I was very little. It is amazing to think about a language that does not use the letters I am used to see since I learned how to write and read. However, as the time goes by you learn that the world is so much bigger than what you thought it was. I find Chinese characters to be fascinating. And as it is very different language from mine, there are a lot of things that I find rare and have caused me a huge impression.

I find really original the word 給力, which means powerful, brilliant, awesome or epic. So you can use it as an adjective to say that a movie was epic (給力), or Mandarin language is awesome (給力), for example. You will definitely sound like a Taiwanese and you will be able to impress your Taiwanese classmates by using it. It adds value to your Mandarin skills.  Moreover, I am very impressed by the word 加油, which means “come one”, “let’s go” or “good luck”. 加油 is used a lot by everyone here in Taiwan. It does not matter if it is a teenager, young people or elder. I found 加油, to be totally part of the Taiwanese culture. It was probably the first word that I learned.

Culture is a very controversial definition. Nevertheless, while studying the culture, anthropologists have created different meanings, but in all of the meanings the word culture recognizes that the life style, conduct patterns, values and its definitions, knowledge, arts, laws, morals, customs, and, in a deeply way, slangs, are part of it.

To identify those characteristics from a culture it is necessary to express them by using communication, which is the way by how a person tells their feelings, desires, thoughts, and perceptions to another person.

For this reason, communication is one of the principal ways to express, in a deeply way, the culture. Each culture, even though they are from similar regions or nations, are different, and sometimes is difficult for similar culture to understand some of the differences between countries while communicating. Each country, as part of its nationality and culture, develops particular ways to communicate with the internal nation, and it is called slangs, which are internal ways to express something, and are not understandable to other culture nation.

A slang is a deviation from a standard language and nowadays it tends to be very popular among younger population of a society. A slang is also considered as part of popular culture and folklore.  It is very common in all languages such as French, English and so on… Slangs constitute in some case and for many a sign of belonging to a certain type of social group or class of age. Mostly they are considered has a non-formal type of language or street language, therefore they are used in particular a context with people you are familiar with; they are not allowed in formal setting such as business meetings. Nevertheless slangs constitute a body of language that can be used to convey a message to people of the same generation and that know the usages of those words and that are used in daily life interaction with others: therefore slangs can be very important to learn when learning a new language because it can help in the adaption of someone in a new culture.

    Talking about mandarin slang, I am not very familiar with it, because slangs are often used the most outside of the classroom setting. Nevertheless in daily life in Taiwan I have encountered many times and many situations where words from Mandarin slang are used to express some feelings, and most of the time it was difficult for a non-native to catch the meaning easily because the words or expressions used in that particular situation or time were used to express something else than their original meaning.

Hello, my name is Fryda and I am from El Salvador, I currently study a Master Degree 
in International Human Resources at NTNU. This is my second post for the TICA 
Newsletter, and this time I would like to share something about my experience with 
mandarin slang. 
So let’s see…first, what is mandarin slang? Like in any language mandarin also has 
its own slang words, and informal meanings for words. When we are learning 
Chinese we often listen from our teachers, the same advice: “Be careful with the 
pronunciation of some words, because some of them have also a different meaning”. 
I would like to add to this comment, that in some cases the meaning is not very 
pleasant, or good…Yes, I mean OFFENSIVE lol so when you learn Chinese pay 
attention to the mentioned advice, be careful with your words and you will not have 
any issue with this. 

After arriving in Taiwan from my home country Honduras, to study my Master's Degree, I knew that the language barrier would be one of my biggest challenges in a new country. Even though my courses are deliver in English, just being fluent in one foreign language is not sufficient in order to communicate and live your every day student life, you most at least learn the basics of one of the most spoken languages in the world, Chinese Mandarin. 

The challenging part is not that people don't speak English, actually many Taiwanese students understand and speak a little of English and some even speak a little of Spanish. The challenge is the fact that in order to make your life simpler is better to learn Chinese because the signs in the streets, buses, restaurants and stores are in Chinese characters and not all of the places you will visit have the english translation of their menus or signs underneath the characters. So in order to move around 
smoothly you must understand a little of Chinese to not get lost and to succesfully order food. 

 

Mandarin Slang? Actually, this is first time I ever heard about this, maybe for my daily life in Taiwan, I experienced Taiwanese people sometimes speak Taiwanese and they mixed up with mandarin, so they just made their own “languange”,but event young Taiwanese mostly couldn’t speak Taiwanese, because of Mandaring slang, they could understand Taiwanese a little because some old generation in Taiwan, mix their languange, so I know a little about Mandarin slang words. First word that I ever learnt about was xiǎo niǎo (小鳥). I thought it was a joke, but Taiwanese people know that as a slang word for “man’s private thing”. Well, now I could learn Mandarin from another side. For me, learning slang words just makes differences how to know the language from not only from formal learning. But, almost all the slang words that I ever know always bad word. I don’t know why. But it just make legitimation that slang word always associated with bad word. But If you feel that learning languange only from formal one, it really makes us bored. But, sometimes because of slang words, we can memorize and understand a lot of vocabulary from that language. As my concern, Mandarin for me is difficult, instead of tones, they have a lot of homonyms. So, sometimes if my Taiwanese friend just teaches me slang word, I always be curious what they say, and how to write it, so I know how to use that slang word, even they always laugh at me, But It doesn’t really matter for me.

Chinese is a language that has existed for hundreds of years and, as expected, is rich in ways of expressing feelings and ideas. Before writing this essay, I had a little bit of knowledge of Chinese idioms, but I had no clue about slangs; so I went to Google and did a little homework. In Chinese, idioms usually consist of four characters so they are easier to remember, but slangs...they can have a lot of characters! Sometimes the characters that form a slang can be very simple ones; yet, when they are put together, they make the slang a hard to solve puzzle! If you are learning Chinese, I bet you will find them challenging at first, but fun once you understand their meaning. These are the idioms that not only I liked, but could understand! Hehe!

Slang consist of non- standard words and phrases of a language that is used in informal situations. Almost every language, if not all languages have their own slang; Mandarin, being the most popular language in the world, definitely has its own slang. After studying in Taiwan for a year, and learning mandarin, I have recognized that there are some words and expressions that simply cannot be learnt from a text book. These words and expressions can only be learnt through social interactions. Mandarin slang has truly left its mark on me and as a foreigner I use it in my everyday conversations between friends and classmates.


Mandarin slang impressed me because it allowed me to break the stereotype about Asians. Before coming to Taiwan I always believed that Asians (Taiwanese) were very serious and uptight people. However, learning and speaking mandarin slang has broken this stereotype. The use of mandarin slang showcases or highlights the jovial and social side of Taiwanese and Asians as a whole. Mandarin slang has allowed me to learn that Asians, enjoy making jokes and having fun as we do on the Western side. From words like “乾杯/ gān bēi” which means to drink up until your glass is empty, to funny expressions like “小三/xiǎo sān”, literally translated as “little three” but it refers to a mistress, a third wheel or the other woman.