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Don’t Get Embarrassed. Know These Basic Computer Vocabulary

May. 25, 2018

Your meeting with your new Chinese clients has just begun when you realize you left something essential behind. As you scan the meeting table you notice someone has just what you need. Great! Now all you need to do is politely ask to borrow it.

“我能借你的…? (Wǒ néng jiè nǐ de…) Can I borrow your…?”

What’s the word?!

If you read this blog post before your meeting you would have been saved from embarrassment.

Never get caught in this situation at a business meeting ever again. The word the person was thinking of was “鼠标 (shǔbiāo) mouse.” The next time you see your colleagues practice these basic Chinese IT vocabulary words together to impress everyone during your next meeting.

Start with the basics, including “鼠标 (shǔbiāo) mouse”, “键盘 (jiànpán) keyboard”, and “电脑 (diànnǎo) computer.” “Mouse” quite literally begins with the word for mouse in Chinese followed by “sign.” Therefore we can say the Chinese word symbolizes a mouse. Moving on to our next word, “键盘 (jiànpán) keyboard.” This one makes a lot of sense how it is translated. It works out to mean “button plate.” It is easy to picture a perfectly organized template or long serving plate of alphabet buttons for your spelling needs. Lastly we have “电脑 (diànnǎo) computer.” This one sounds super sci-fi—“electricity brain.” It makes sense and is easy to visualize an electric brain doing complex calculations for you.

HSK 3 quiz

鼠标 (Shǔbiāo): mouse.

鼠 (Shǔ): mouse.

标 (Biāo): mark; sign.

键盘 (Jiànpán): keyboard.

键 (Jiàn): button.

盘 (Pán): plate.

电脑 (Diànnǎo): computer.

电 (Diàn): electricity.

脑 (Nǎo): brain.

Since we use “电脑 (diànnǎo)” to mean desktop computer we have another word just for portable style computers. In English we say laptop, but in Chinese we can use “notebook” to mean laptop. Actual notebooks are small and convenient just like laptops so we can easily remember the comparison. And instead of pad or tablet, in Chinese these ultra portable devices are called flat boards. It’s pretty applicable as well seeing how flat and compact they have become these days.

HSK 3 quiz

笔记本电脑 (Bǐjìběn diànnǎo): laptop.

笔记本 (Bǐjìběn): notebook.

平板电脑 (Píngbǎn diànnǎo): tablet; pad.

平板 (Píngbǎn): flat board.

This one is more interesting. In Chinese it is called “fireproof wall” while in English it’s called a firewall. A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. It blocks unauthorized access while permitting outward communication. So in essence it’s protecting your computer from damage. Here’s a mnemonic device to help it sink in. Imagine a fire virus trying to attack your computer but there is a protective barrier that is “防火 (fánghuǒ) fireproof.”

防火墙 (Fánghuǒqiáng): firewall.

防火 (Fánghuǒ): fireproof.

墙 (Qiáng): wall.

The next two are the easiest ones to remember since they are translated according to their pronunciation yet they still make sense in the literal sense as well. Let’s look at the Chinese word for blog “博客 (bókè).” Blogs attract readers which we can technically say there are extensive guests on the blog site. It’s quite clever how sometimes the translation and pronunciation aligns so well. As for “黑客 (hēikè) hacker”, we can imagine a thief wearing all black clothing that invites himself into your system.

博客 (Bókè): blog.

博 (): ample; extensive.

客 (): guest.

黑客 (Hēikè): hacker.

黑 (Hēi): black.

客 (): guest.


1. Read the dialogue and answer the question below:

Ann: Wǒ néng jiè nǐ de píngbǎn diànnǎo yòng yíxià ma?
Ann:  我    能   借 你 的   平  板    电   脑    用    一下  吗?

Bob: Kě yǐ, wǒ fàng zài jiànpán yòubiān le.
Bob: 可 以,我 放   在  键  盘    右  边  了。

What does Ann want to borrow?

A. 平板电脑 (Píngbǎn diànnǎo)

B. 键盘 (Jiànpán)

C. 鼠标 (Shǔbiāo)

See Answer Analysis

— Written by Julia Liu —
Julia teaches Chinese with eChineseLearning. She has been successfully teaching for 5 years and loves reading and practices her passion of drawing in her free time.

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