Learning Chinese & English Slang: More than just a language exchange

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The best way to see if you have really mastered a language is to see how much slang you can understand, and that is why both international and Chinese students gathered together on March 30th in WeSpace to learn about each other’s slang. This event was put together by the PHBS 友connect program, which pairs an international student with a Chinese student to promote culture and language exchange.

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In one corner of the newly opened WeSpace, students settled down around the table and were each given a list of Chinese and English slang terms. For the Chinese part, the characters and pinyin were given and international students were expected to learn its meaning by discussing and asking other students. Trending slang such as 66666, 男神, 高富帅 were compiled. It might seem easy to get the meaning in the native language, but explaining its meaning in English is another thing. 男神, or nanshen in pinyin, literally means male god, but it is used to describe a male that is usually so handsome and good-looking that he is almost god-like. It sounds like a mouthful, but this slang can be used on a daily basis. 高富帅 is another Chinese slang that you must master. It literally means someone that is tall, rich and handsome, and to a certain extent it is used in the same way as 男神. It was fun to see Chinese slang used on a daily basis be explained and translated both literally and figuratively.

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English slang such as ‘Bye Felicia’, chill, and SMH were also introduced to the Chinese students. The great diversity in the group of international students made this part very interesting as well. English speakers from different countries might have different takes on the same slang, and everyone enjoyed exchanging this knowledge.

This was a great night, as students learned things beyond their Chinese or English language classes. There are multiple ways to learning a language and its culture, and grammar and vocabulary is just one of them. Explaining the slangs also brought out certain culture or common knowledge unique to the language, and it definitely became more than just a language exchange event.

Report and photos by Yang Wandong