Sunday, 6 September 2015

Chinese ceremonies for beginners

First published 15 August 2015 @ sólo algunas palabras

The Russian expression без китайских церемоний (literally, without Chinese ceremonies) can be translated as “without formalities”, “simply”, “casually”, or even “bluntly”. Chinese ceremonies in question can be expanded as “tedious and unnecessary conventions; excessive display of politeness; meaningless etiquette”. In his short story Китайская церемония (1924), Mikhail Zoshchenko humorously refers to the habit of shaking hands as a Chinese ceremony, even though Chinese have nothing to do with it.

Chinese, however, see nothing wrong in being excessively polite. The more excuse mes, can I asks and pleases, the better. Instead of rather blunt 你好吗 “How are you?” (literally “You good?”), you are more likely to hear 你吃饭了没, “Have you eaten rice yet?” — because if you did, things cannot be too bad. Interestingly, the polite response to 谢谢 “thank you” is 不客气 , literally “don’t be polite”. If you are at all interested in learning Chinese, you could do worse than start with a few polite expressions.

Han charactersPinyinMeaningEtymology
trad.qǐngPlease
simpl.
trad.請問qǐngwènExcuse me請 “please” + 問 “ask”
simpl.请问
trad.抱歉bàoqiàn(I’m) sorry抱 “to carry” + 歉 “apology”
simpl.
trad.謝謝xièxieThank you; thanks
simpl.谢谢
trad.不客氣bù kèqiYou’re welcome不 “not” + 客氣 “polite”; literally “don’t be (so) polite”
simpl.不客气
trad.您好nín hǎoHello (formal, said to a single person)您 “you” (formal) + 好 “good”
simpl.
trad.你好nǐ hǎoHello (informal, said to a single person)你 “you” (informal) + 好 “good”
simpl.
trad.你們好nǐmen hǎoHello (said to a group of people)你們 / 你们 “you” (plural) + 好 “good”
simpl.你们好
trad.你好嗎?nǐ hǎo ma?How are you?你 “you” (informal) + 好 “good” + 嗎 / 吗 (question tag); literally “you good?”
simpl.你好吗?
trad.你吃飯了沒?nǐ chīfàn le méi?How are you?你 “you” (informal) + 吃 “to eat” + 飯 / 饭 “cooked rice” + 了 (perfective aspect tag) + 沒 / 沒 “have not”; literally “have you eaten cooked rice?”
simpl.你吃饭了没?
trad.早安zǎo ānGood morning早 “early” + 安 “peace”
simpl.
trad.晚安wǎn ānGood evening; good night晚 “late” + 安 “peace”
simpl.
trad.再見zàijiànGoodbye; see you later再 “again” + 見 / 见 “to see / to meet”
simpl.再见

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