As I prepare to move to Shanghai, I've started meeting with a language tutor here in Hong Kong. Being able to communicate in Chinese will be much more necessary in Shanghai than it has been in Hong Kong. I'm trying to cover some basics now, and when I move to Shanghai, I'll start a month-long intensive course right away. After this initial dive into the language, I'll continue with part-time classes. Learning Chinese will be a big part of my life this year, so I thought I'd start sharing little tidbits of my learning with you from time to time.
There are hundreds of regional dialects within China, and many of these are mutually unintelligible. However, people from all over the country have a shared language: Mandarin. In Chinese, this language is referred to as 普通话 or "putonghua" (literally "common speech").
There are a lot of words and phrases in Mandarin Chinese that have really interesting, unexpected, or funny literal translations. Here are just a couple examples I learned this week:
- 左右 "zuo you" (literally "left right") = about / approximately
- 加油 "jia you" (literally "add oil") = an expression of encouragement (sports fans yell this a lot)