2009年 11月 18日, 星期三 - 格林尼治标准时间13:21

Emmet's Student Diary 伦敦学生博客第八周

Emmet Conlon O'Reilly

Wednesday 18th November 2009 – First Exams

Jiā ​yóu​!

Thanks to Niki for getting in touch. I was glad to hear football is getting more and more popular in China although it seems to have a long way to go to catch up with the likes of basketball and table tennis.

Emmet and friends at the Comedy Store

Emmet and friends at the Comedy Store

Last week our class had our first set of exams. We had one test in classical Chinese and one in elementary Chinese; written and aural exams. Before we entered the exam to scribble Chinese characters as quickly and accurately as possible, a friend from third year used a phrase I hadn’t heard before: jiā ​yóu​!

He explained that 加油 literally translates as 'add oil' or 'top up with oil' but it means 'go for it' or maybe 'good luck' in English. I thought this was a great turn of phrase, the type that only native speakers usually use.

A similar expression used in Ireland is: 'give it socks!' or to 'give it welly!' These also mean jiā​ yóu. I have no idea where either phrase comes from but they are both hilarious.

I’d love to learn more of these phrases. If you can think of any, please send them to me at the email address at the bottom of the page. If you know the English equivalent of the phrase, send that too, or if not we’ll try to find one for you.

The exams went pretty well; classical Chinese was fine, bù róngyì, bù nán. Our other exam was quite difficult though. The sheer volume of writing was a challenge. Trying to remember specific points of grammar, on top of translation exercises, kept us busy for the hour long exam. I found it difficult remembering where the de (的) classifier goes in a sentence and when it can be omitted, especially in exam conditions.

Stand-up comedian Aaron Counter

A stand-up comedian

It had been a long couple of weeks of study so on the Friday night after the exam some of the class got together for a night out in Leicester square. We went out for dinner and then to the famous Comedy Store, to see some stand-up comedy. It’s a long time since I had laughed that hard, I was in stitches for days afterwards.



set 一轮, scribble 潦草的写/乱写, turn of phrase 巧妙的短语, welly 威灵顿橡皮雨靴, hilarious 引人发笑的/有趣的, equivalent 对应语, classifier 形容词, omitted 省略的, exam conditions考试的情况下, stand-up comedy 独角喜剧

Emmet used the phrase to catch up with. This means to get to the same level as, or to move fast enough to catch someone you’re chasing. For example, “My sister has finally caught up with me in her studies” or: “I tried to catch up with my friend before he got on the bus but he was too fast for me.” Emmet said that the exams went pretty well. The word ‘pretty’ here can be used informally as an adverb to mean the same as ‘quite’. E.g. “I was pretty angry when my boss shouted at me for no reason” or: “I felt pretty good when I passed my exam.” Finally, Emmet said he was in stitches at the Comedy Store. This means to laugh uncontrollably, or to laugh so much that it hurts. Here’s another example, “The joke was so funny I was in stitches.”

Question of the week

Can you think of any good colloquial phrases in Mandarin (like jiā ​yóu) that I might find useful? Send them to me and I’ll try to think of an English equivalent and send it back to you.

Email me and you might see your answers at the bottom of this page.

Email Emmet at 按键 chinaelt@bbc.co.uk

Your Replies

Note: We do not correct the English in comments posted.

Dear Emmet,

I study in Xi'an International Studies University. Reading your articl in the web, I know that you are learning chinese in UK. Today I just want to give you one of my favorite Chinese terms “shào zhuàng bù nu lì, lao dà tú shāng bēi”, which means "if you do not study hard when young, you will end up bewailing your failures as you grow up". This sentence enables to have a better understanding of the importance of time. I hope this term not noly can help you learn chinese, but can inspire you to learn as much as you can in your college life.

It is a great pleasure to help you in learning Chinese. Looking forwad for your early repay.

Andy, Xi’an, China

Hi Emmet,

Let's talk about interesting Chinese turns of phrase. Hmm, what about these two, they almost mean the same thing and my Irish friend loves using them very much. "说的比唱的好听" (shuo de bi chang de hao ting) and "站着说话不腰疼" (zhan zhe shuo hua bu yao teng). Of course the first one doesn't really mean someone sings better than speaks and the second one definitely doesn't mean someone's standing there talking without a middle ache...

说的比唱的好听 and 站着说话不腰疼 both mean someone talks big or brags about something which is easy said than done. For example, we were watching an exciting football game. Then a stupid annoying guy came by and watched the game for a little while, then he said: "This is so easy! Just kick the ball and goal, what's difficult? It seems so easy! Why can't they do that? Why it's still 0:0 ?!" And at that moment we must be very angry with him and shout: "Don't be 站着说话不腰疼! You are just 说的比唱的好听!"

Got it? So what are the English or Irish expressions for them? Looking forward…

All the best.

Dora, Shanghai, China

Hello Emmet,

The popular colloquial phrases come into my mind is ‘niu’ (in second tone). Literally, it means a bull, but in that language context, it is used as an adjective meaning some one is "powerful" and "competitive". For instance, if some one passes exam with a wonderful score, we can say "ni zhen niu” (you are really great)!

This expression might come from English, because a booming stock market is called "bull market" in English.

Best regards,

Zhi Chen

Hi, Emmet:

It's nice to write to you mate. I'm Jacky – Jacky Bond from China. It's also a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I appreciate it ur work for our english learner and thanks for posting the blogs. I found it so useful l really learned a lot from them. Well, i'd like to introduce some of the phrases in chinese that you may not have heard by far as a favor in return.

As you mentioned the turn of phrase ‘加油’ ok, first let's tackle with this one. You can also use the phrase 'Nu Li' instead (first one descending and rising tone, and the second one is descending tone). But sometimes like our native chinese speakers we use jia ba yin as well. 'jia ba jin' literally translates as 'give power' or strive for sth. Jia (even tone) ba (descending and rising tone) jin (descending tone) but it actually means ‘go for it’, or ‘give it a shot’. And there's another one i bet you will never learn in school that is 'wan ming' (as the first one is descending and rising tone, the second one is descending tone) it is a colloquial where Tianjin locals used a lot! 'wan ming' literally translates as dying for sth, or play a hard ball, but it means: you've got to do it! You've got to ramp it up! or you're gonna fail it vice versa!

And bye the way Tianjin is my hometown, where the place i put my root in. As you already knew the phrase 'bu rong yi' which is a good phrase to know. We use this one a lot. And a similar expression that is wildly used in China is 'xiao yi si' (descending and rising tone, descending tone, even tone) when sth is not hard for you then this phrase will come to play as part of native language - chinese slang! Well, it means 'a piece of cake'.

Alright mate, I'd like to share more with you next time and i look forward to keeping an eye for more English blogs from you.

See you around - Zhu Ni Hao Yun - Bon Voyage :)

Jacky Bond, Tianjin, China

Hello, Emmet.

I'd like to share with you some Chinese colloquial phrases. But it really is kinda hard, different dialects have different colloquial phrases. But I guess you mean phrases in Mandarin Chinese. So I'll try.

The first one I came to think of is 圣诞快乐 (sheng dan kuai le) = Merry Christmas, as Christmas is approaching. Then there's a commonly used written phrase 心想事成 (xin xiang shi cheng) = wish your dreams come true (I think you might find it useful writing christmas and new year cards).

Ah, let me introduce to you a very hilarious character often appeares on the internet 囧。 Can you believe it as a Chinese Character? Yes, it is!

This character is now so popular with so called "netizens" especially young people. This character is pronounced Jiong (third tone) and people think it lovely because it looks like a facial expression that shows embarrassment. So when you think someone has spoken something eccentric, odd, and in a slightly ridiculous, amusing way, you just type this single character. It is so pervading.

Take care.

Liuyang, China

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