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The Secret of Speaking Like the Locals – Chinese Slangs

Apr. 14, 2022

If you turn on a popular Chinese TV show or watch a movie, you may find that you can’t understand them completely even if you have passed the most difficult level of HSK. It’s probably because the actors and actresses speak tons of Chinese slang phrases.

Slangs can be complicated to learn because they’re quite informal, and it’s usually passed through speech instead of writing. Besides, slangs are typically defined as being grammatically incorrect. However, just like everyday conversations between native speakers, Chinese culture is filled with slang phrases and expressions.

They are extremely necessary if you want to communicate with native speakers smoothly. Because after you learn these slangs, you’ll understand them more and feel more connected with them when you’re having a conversation with Chinese.

Are you ready to refresh your Chinese skills? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the most commonly used Chinese slangs.

HSK 3 quiz

1. 给你点颜色看看(gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn)

This slang phrase is used to show someone’s strength to threaten others to make them scared or surrender. Usually the purpose is frightening others in advance. It’s basically equivalent to “I’ll teach you a lesson” or “I’ll give you a piece of my mind” in English.

You can also use an object to replace 你() , like 给她点颜色看看(gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn): teach her a lesson,给乔治点颜色看看(gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn): give George a piece of my mind.

HSK 3 quiz

给你点颜色看看(gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn): I’ll teach you a lesson; I’ll give you a piece of my mind

Examples:

nǐ rú guǒ zài dǎ rǎo wǒ men gōng zuò , wǒ jiù yào gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn le.
你 如 果   再  打 扰   我   们      工    作, 我 就   要  给  你  点   颜   色  看   看  了。
If you disturb us again while we are working, I’ll teach you a lesson.

nǐ zuì hǎo zhù yì nǐ shuō huà de yǔ qì , fǒu zé gěi nǐ diǎn yán sè kàn kàn .
你 最   好   注 意 你  说    话   的 语 气,否  则 给 你  点    颜   色  看  看。
You’d better watch your tone, or I’ll give you a piece of my mind.

2. 书呆子(shū dāi zi)

The slang is basically “bookworm”, “nerd” or “pedant” in English. It means that a person is always reading or studying, but does not know how to apply what he has learned to solve problems in real life. It also refers to those who learn knowledge from books, but do not know how to communicate with others or how to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s normally used as a derogatory noun or adjective.

HSK 3 quiz

书呆子(shū dāi zi): bookworm; nerd; pedant

Examples:

wǒ zǒng shì bǎ tā dàng zuò shū dāi zi.
我    总    是  把 他  当    作   书   呆  子。
I’ve always seen him as a nerd.

tā chú le dú shū , hái shì dú shū , zhēn shì gè shū dāi zi.
他  除 了 读   书,还  是   读  书,  真   是  个  书  呆 子。
All he does is read books in daily life, he is such a bookworm.

3. 嘴硬(zuǐ yìng)

The literal translation of “嘴硬(zuǐ yìng)” is “a hard mouth”. The slang is normally used to describe a person who’s stubborn and reluctant to admit a mistake or defeat.

HSK 3 quiz

嘴硬(zuǐ yìng): stubborn and reluctant to admit a mistake or defeat

Examples:

míng míng shì nǐ de cuò, nǐ jiù bié zài zuǐ yìng le.
明        明   是 你 的  错,你 就  别 再  嘴   硬  了。
It’s obviously that you’re wrong, so don’ be so stubborn and insist that you are not.

qí shí wǒ méi nà me jiān qiáng de, wǒ zhī shì zuǐ yìng bà le.
其 实  我   没  那  么  坚     强    的,我 只  是  嘴   硬   罢 了。
In fact I am not that strong, I’m just reluctant to admit it.

4. 脚踏两只船(jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán)

The literal translation of “脚踏两只船”(jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán) is “have one’s feet in two boats”. It is a metaphor of unclear understanding of things and indecision, or cheating on somebody. It’s normally used as a derogatory term.

HSK 3 quiz

脚踏两只船(jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán):unclear understanding of things and indecision; cheating on somebody

Examples:

tā men fēn shǒu de yuán yīn shì yīn wèi tā jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán.
他  们    分    手   的   原    因  是  因  为  他 脚  踏   两    只    船。
They broke up because he was dating two girls at the same time.

dào dǐ gēn shéi hǎo, nǐ de tài dù yào míng què, bù yào jiǎo tà liǎng zhī chuán.
到   底  跟   谁    好,你 的 态 度  要    明     确,不  要   脚  踏   两    只    船。
Who do you want to be with? Your attitude needs to be clear, don’t date both of them at the same time.

See? Chinese slangs are fun to learn! If you use them properly, the native speakers will be dazzled by your cultural awareness. Have you memorized the four slang phrases above? Now you can impress your Chinese friends by using them in your conversations!

What other Chinese slangs do you want to know? You’re welcome to comment in the section below!

You May Want to Learn More :

“4 “Lucky” Chinese Slang Terms”

“Must-Know Gym Chinese Vocabulary and Sentences for Weightlifters”

”Expressions You Need to Know About Money”

HSK 1 quiz

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