If you are learning Chinese (Mandarin), you must have already noticed that the pronunciation of certain words is very similar to their pronunciation in western languages. In fact, these words are actually borrowed from English and other languages, which is why their pronunciation sounds so familiar. So, let’s try to learn some of them. I promise that they are very easy to remember.
The most important thing that we will discuss in this article is food. Some of these words have been translated directly into Chinese, while others require the addition of one or more characters. For example:
Partial translation + character(s):
For those words that require adding one or more characters, here is how they break down:
There are also some other words that have a similar structure. Examples of these are:
The names of certain famous brands have also been translated directly into Chinese:
The names of certain well-known people and places have been translated directly into Chinese as well:
The same can be said of certain sports words:
Here are some other words that have been directly translated:
Sometimes we don’t even have to translate words, we just use them. This is true of certain abbreviations. For example, WTO, SOS, DNA, NBA and so on.
Sometimes when we translate words into Chinese, we simply translate their original pronunciation. However, there are occasionally instances in which we can successfully translate the word’s pronunciation and meaning at the same time. Here are two very good examples of this.
The first one is the brand name “Benz.” This has been translated as bēnchí (奔驰) in Chinese. As we can see, the word bēnchí is pronounced in a way that is very similar to “Benz.” However, the best part is that the word bēnchí (奔驰) also refers to a horse or car that moves quickly and freely through a field. As you can see, this is a very vivid translation, as well as a very successful one.
The second good example is Coca-Cola. At first, Coca-Cola was translated as kēdǒu kěnlà (蝌蚪啃蜡). However, while we have to admit that the pronunciation of kēdǒu kěnlà sounds very similar to “Coca-Cola,” the meaning presented some unfortunate problems. Specifically, the word kēdǒu means “tadpole,” while kěn means “to bite” and là means “wax”! Oh my goodness! Would you really want to drink something called “tadpoles bite wax”? Never!
Luckily for them, Coca-Cola decided not to use this silly name, and instead changed it to kěkǒu kělè (可口可乐). This was a great move because this has become the most successful brand translation in history. Why is this? Well, it’s because the word kěkǒu refers to something that is very tasty or delicious and kělè means something that is worth being happy about! You see? Now you know why Coca-Cola is so popular in China. Of course we also have Pepsi, and Pepsi was translated in a similar way. Specifically, the name is bǎishì kělè (百事可乐), which means “everything is worth being happy about.” In addition, bǎishì is also pronounced in a way that is similar to “Pepsi” in English.
Thus, as I said before, languages are always changing, and English is no exception. In fact, English has also absorbed a lot of new words from Chinese, with “tofu” “tai chi,” “qi” and “feng shui” being just a few examples. And even though the pronunciation of these words has been somewhat altered from the original Mandarin, Chinese people are still able to understand them almost immediately when they hear them. Therefore, it’s just another way that globalization has manifested itself in our lives, as well as a very convenient way for us to learn more about another language.