I Love You Chinese Slang: An Introduction

A crash-course on 5 easy to use Chinese slang words!

Much like the rest of the world, Chinese is a language with tons of slang you can use to describe just about anything. And the truth is, as someone who has spent years learning the language, I think that modern Chinese slang is simply fascinating. Whether it is a simple play on words or a cultural phenomenon from a movie or video game, Chinese slang has an acute way of summarizing everyday situations or emotions.

Learning Chinese is both a challenging and incredibly rewarding experience.  A common frustration both new and veteran Chinese language students experience is the constant lack of slang and modern memes in textbooks and classrooms.

Don’t worry about it for another second!  The Nanyan Observer is here to help bump your Mandarin to a new level.  Whether you want to speak Chinese like a native or simply have some great catchphrases you can drop over hotpot, here is a crash course on five easy to use Chinese slang words. 

五二零520 (wǔ èr líng) – I love you

Try saying 5-2-0 in Chinese. Does it sound familiar?

Maybe you saw 520 everywhere recently on May 20th (5-20). In Chinese, 520 (wǔ èr líng) and 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) phonetically sound very alike. The sound of the characters is so similar that 520 caught on as a casual I love you.

The popularity of this phrase then led to the 20th of May becoming a mini Valentine’s Day. This week couples celebrated the holiday by sending loved ones red envelopes, gifting flowers, and going out for a romantic 520 dinner.

Of course, if you didn’t celebrate the day, this could mean you are a 单身狗 (dān shēn gǒu – single dog), the new playful way of expressing miserable and not particularly encouraging single-hood.

More doggie slang below keep reading!! 

Adj + 成狗 (Chéng Gǒu) – Adj + like a dog

This saying is used jokingly to show an extremely severe state of being. Most commonly, this phrase is used in two scenarios. “I’m hungry as a dog” and “I’m as tired as a dog”.

老铁 (lǎo tiě) – Bro

老铁 direct translation is 老 (old)and 铁 (steel). It is used to describe your mates that will stick with you through anything. This word is generally used between males to describe their relationship.

算了 (suàn le)- Forget it

算了 is a casual way of saying “forget it” or “don’t worry about it”. This word also double as a way of ending a relationship.

柠檬精 (níng méng jīng) – Bitter, Envious or jealous

This word is rather new to the realm of internet slang. The direct translation is 柠檬 (lemon) and 精 (essence). It can refer to people who are bitter to others or be used in a self-deprecating humorous way.

By Lewis D-G

Edit/Design by Luo Jie Chunyi

Originally published May 24, 2019 on PKU Shenzhen Graduate School WeChat Account


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