If you’re ever planning on living in China and understanding Mandarin Chinese, a working knowledge of Chinese words with both literal and figurative meanings will be absolutely necessary to follow the topic and direction of the conversation. If we are learning through books or outdated lessons, we may take every word literally and miss the real meaning of the discussion.
One word that has a literal meaning but is frequently used in conversations about business and economy is “泡沫 (pàomò)”.
“泡沫 (Pàomò)” literally means foam or froth. It could be the white, bubbly top of an ocean wave or the soapy suds that circle in a washing machine.
泡 (Pào) = bubbles, soak.
沫 (Mò) = froth, foam.
Examples of the literal meaning of “泡沫 (pàomò)”:
Jack bù xǐhuān pàomò tài duō de píjiǔ.
Jack 不 喜 欢 泡 沫 太 多 的 啤酒。
Jack doesn’t like beer with too much froth.
Hǎi shàng fúzhe pàomò.
海 上 浮着 泡 沫。
The sea was flecked with foam.
However, as I mentioned before, “泡沫 (pàomò)” is also used when discussing economy and business. You may hear “泡沫 (pàomò)” being used to describe something that looks very prosperous on the surface, but in reality, the prosperity is only in appearance; the real stability is just a facade or spectacle. Just like a bubble, once touched, the appearance will be broken.
In daily life, especially in the newspaper and in interviews, you will often hear about “泡沫经济 (pàomò jīngjì) bubble economy”, “价格泡沫 (jiàgé pàomò) price bubble”, and “金融泡沫 (jīnróng pàomò) financial bubble.”
Shénme shíhòu huì chūxiàn pàomò jīngjì?
什 么 时 候 会 出 现 泡 沫 经济?
When will the bubble economy emerge?
Hěnduō shāngrén dōu hàipà jīnróng pàomò.
很 多 商 人 都 害 怕 金 融 泡 沫。
Many businessmen are afraid of financial bubbles.
With high housing costs in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, foreign students and Chinese friends are often talking about “价格泡沫 (jiàgé pàomò) price bubble” on housing in China, expecting that soon housing prices may drop dramatically. In the USA, we often hear about “泡沫经济 (pàomò jīngjì) bubble economy” when there is too much reliance on risky aspects such as technology, Internet business and online currency such as Bitcoin. As we try to predict what will happen financially around the world, these terms will make their way into our daily language.
If you follow the news and like to discuss these volatile topics, then a working knowledge of the word “泡沫 (pàomò)” and all its applications are very necessary!
1. Based on what you learned in today’s lesson, what is the reason that young people cannot afford an apartment in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai?
A. 泡沫 (Pàomò)
B. 价格泡沫 (Jiàgé pàomò)
C. 金融 (Jīnróng)
See Answer Analysis
―Written by Elena Trevino―
Elena Trevino is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing studying the language to get a head start in international trade. She is most interested in seeing how Mandarin is affecting the fashion industry throughout the world as Chinese shoppers are now such a large factor. She is frequently attending fashion industry events in Beijing and throughout China.