Is 妳 Outmoded? Do You Use It?

Yesterday I was texting with a Taiwanese friend in Chinese. He addressed me as 你 instead of 妳. I thought I was being so smart by correcting him and reminding him that I’m female. He responded by saying that nowadays 你 is used for both males and females.

你 and 妳 are the pronouns for you in Chinese, both pronounced Nǐ in pinyin.

So I did a cursory internet search to get my facts straight. It turns out that in China 你 is often used for both men and women, but some online forums claims 妳 is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Traditional Chinese characters, as influenced by translations from Western languages and the Bible in the nineteenth century, occasionally distinguished gender in pronouns, although that distinction is abandoned in simplified Characters. Those traditional characters developed after Western contact include both masculine and feminine forms of “you” ( and ), rarely used today even in writings in traditional characters; in the simplified system,  is rare. The traditional characters also included three neuter third-person pronouns after Western contact,  () for animals,  for deities, and  for inanimate objects, but, again, this distinction is rare in current actual usage; in simplified characters,  is used in place of .

I can say from my own personal experience with texting Taiwanese friends,  妳 is still widely used. But I’m curious to know what you think. Is 妳 outmoded? Let me know in the comments.

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Trade Agreement With China Stinks

downloadAbout a week ago Taiwanese students and citizens began protesting a trade agreement. The trade agreement is supported by Taiwan’s president, and would allow China to invest in Taiwan. Student protesters object to the trade agreement believing it gives China an unfair economic advantage over Taiwan, and is the first step toward a de facto unification with China.

My Chinese teacher and I discussed the topic in my limited Chinese in our last lesson. This is my simple statement about the trade agreement:


My opinion:

Taiwan’s people have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to turn their once poor country into the prosperous country it is today. It would be such a shame to allow the economic prosperity that Taiwan created (without the help of China!) to be given away at the expense of democracy through a de facto unification with China, not to mention dishonoring the sweat, tears, and blood of Taiwanese people who, only one or two generations ago, through their ingenuity, perseverance and cooperation built the economic success that Taiwan now enjoys. I feel strongly that Taiwan will be the economic loser in this trade agreement as small business will be forced out by larger Chinese corporations. History is unfolding and the future of Taiwan’s democracy hangs in the balance.

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Humor In Mandarin Chinese: I Don’t Get The Joke

I sometimes watch television in Taiwan and wonder, “What’s so funny?” I am looking forward to the day when I can be in on the joke! Here’s a short and hysterical clip of a Taiwanese TV show. I have no clue why everyone is in stitches at the end. But it’s amusing to watch.

Often I find myself among friends who are laughing, clearly amused at the humorous banter between themselves, and I can not figure out what is so funny. I laugh anyway, but I long to “get it.”

Understanding a culture’s funny bone is important in language learning. Knowing what’s meant to be funny, and how to be funny is a critical social skill. Yet, this is something I still haven’t figured out in Taiwan.

Humor is usually pretty sophisticated in terms of language skill.

Pascal Vrticka, PhD and postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research’s describes it like this:

Humor requires the ability to understand an apparent discrepancy or incongruity between two or more elements of incoming information. Through detecting and resolving the discrepancy or incongruity, the result is amusement or mirth.

For example, incongruity can be introduced by the occurrence of an unexpected twist in successive events, which then has to be resolved by associating the new outcome with an alternative meaning.

For now, I’m on the outside, working on my basic Chinese language skills. If you know any jokes in Chinese, please share them in the comments so I can learn and start to practice humor skills.

There’s a lot to learn!

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Why Am I Hooked On Chengyu?

百炼成钢I subscribe to several blogs and email newsletters about language learning and Chinese language. Recently, Aaron Posehn founder of How To Learn Chinese Writing, has been emailing subscribers a daily chengyu. This is of course what got me wondering what the heck is a chengyu?

I want to share a chengyu from one of Aaron’s emails. If you find yourself hooked like me, and would like more, check out How To Learn Chinese Writing.

Simplified: 百炼成钢
Tradiational: 百煉成鋼

Pinyin: [bǎi liàn chéng gāng]

English: to be tempered into steel; to bring mastery from training

The character breakdown is as follows:

百 [bǎi] – one hundred
煉 [liàn] – to smelt, to refine
成 [chéng] – to become
鋼 [gāng] – steel

Essentially, this is referring to continuously (“one hundred times”) working away at a piece of metal until it become steel, and is a metaphor for working away at something, such as a skill, in order to gain mastery from continuous training.

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What The Heck Is A Chengyu?

Waiting by a stump for a rabbitChengyu (成語 chéngyǔ) literally means “set phrases.” They are a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consist of four characters.

Chengyu were widely used in Classical Chinese and are still common in vernacular Chinese writing and in the spoken language today. According to the most stringent definition, there are about 5,000 chengyu in the Chinese language, though some dictionaries list over 20,000.

Chengyu are mostly derived from ancient literature. The meaning of a chengyu usually surpasses the sum of the meanings carried by the four characters, as chengyu are often intimately linked with the myth, story or historical fact from which they were derived. As such, chengyu do not follow the usual grammatical structure and syntax of the modern Chinese spoken language, and are instead highly compact and synthetic.

Chengyu in isolation are often unintelligible without explanation, and when students in China learn chengyu in school as part of the classical curriculum, they also need to study the context from which the chengyu was born. Often the four characters reflect the moral behind the story rather than the story itself.


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