The opposite of Chinglish

fondo-oriental_626257One of the many things I find fascinating about living in China is seeing how the foreigners deal with the language. For many people, the only Chinese they know will get them home in a taxi and maybe to a drink at the pub. There are some Chinese words, though, that become part of daily usage for non-native speakers regardless of their language level. Sometimes they are simply Chinese words for things we don’t have in other countries (mostly region-specific foods and dishes). Sometimes they are an interesting reflection of the way life is here.

One of the words in the ‘interesting’ category is 麻烦 (máfan). It basically means trouble. You can also say máfan nǐ, which means ‘Can I trouble you?’ Most foreigners, however, can be heard to say that something is too much máfan, e.g. “I don’t travel in China because it is too much máfan.” There’s something in the Chinese phrase that encapsulates the frustration along with the trouble.

Another common thing to do is to use Chinese verbs in an English way, by adding suffixes like -ing and -ed. The other day, a friend was talking about how Shanghai has been 发展-ing (fāzhǎn-ing) really fast lately. Fāzhǎn means development, or to develop. “There’s been a lot of fāzhǎn around here lately.”

What’s your favourite foreign word that’s made it into your everyday vocabulary?

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