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Chinese Slang Words Every Learner Should Know

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Every culture has its unique set of slang words that can give you a deeper insight into its casual conversations and social media. On your journey to mastering Mandarin Chinese, becoming familiar with the following slang words will help you sound more like a native and understand the nuances of everyday language. Here are some popular Chinese slang words that every learner should know:

土豪 (tǔ háo)
Originally referring to wealthy individuals from rural areas with little education or taste, the term has evolved to describe people who are nouveau riche and display their wealth in a flashy manner.
(Look at Li Ming, he bought the latest model of the smartphone, he’s really a tǔ háo.)

吃土 (chī tǔ)
Literally means “eating soil,” this phrase is humorously used to express being broke after spending too much money.
(I spent too much this month, next month I will have to ‘eat soil’.)

撒娇 (sā jiāo)
This term describes the action of someone, usually a woman, who is acting coquettishly or behaving in a pampered way to win someone’s affection or attention.
(Whenever she wants something, she acts sā jiāo.)

666 (liù liù liù)
This slang is used in online conversations to commend someone’s skill, especially in gaming. It signifies “awesome” or “well done” and is derived from the similarity in sound to the Chinese word for “smooth” (溜 liù).
(Wow, your operation is really 666!)

加油 (jiā yóu)
Literally meaning “add oil,” it’s used as a way to cheer someone on, akin to saying “come on!” or “you can do it!”
(Don’t give up, jiā yóu!)

卧槽 (wò cáo)
A less offensive version of a profane expression of surprise or disbelief, somewhat like saying “holy cow!” or “what the heck!”
(Wò cáo, you actually got a full score!)

闪了 (shǎn le)
Equivalent to “I’m out” or “I gotta run,” it’s a casual way of saying goodbye, implying a sense of leaving quickly.
(It’s already late, I’ve got to shǎn le.)

小鲜肉 (xiǎo xiān ròu)
Literally translated as “little fresh meat,” it refers to young, attractive celebrities, typically male idols with boyish charm.
(Jay Chou doesn’t count as xiǎo xiān ròu anymore.)

囧 (jiǒng)
A character that resembles a sad, downcast face. It’s become an emoticon of sorts, indicating embarrassment or awkwardness in a comical way.
(I was late for class today, really jiǒng.)

朋友圈 (péng yǒu quān)
This phrase refers to the “circle of friends” on WeChat, which is similar to the newsfeed on Facebook where people share updates and photos.
(I just saw your photo in the péng yǒu quān, you look very happy!)

Remember, slang is an essential part of mastering a language and fitting in with the social aspect of its native speakers. By learning these Chinese slang words, you’re not only enhancing your vocabulary but also gaining an insight into modern Chinese culture and the way people communicate informally. Keep practicing, enrich your language skill set, and next time you converse with a native speaker, try slipping in some of these terms and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with using slang in the right context. Happy learning!

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