Found in translation episode 10
There has been an intense competition recently among me and my two other colleagues: who will master Chinese faster. I am trying to explain to them that there’s no way they can exceed me, but they are really stubborn.
One of our favorite ways of adopting native Chinese expressions is to pick the brains of our students, especially one group (10B). And since my workmate Matt is extremely determined to win, he will grab poor kids in the hall on a daily basis to verify his Mandarin findings. Having spotted that, I decided – all is fair in love and war. So last Friday I asked those kids:
G: Hey, you do know that your ESL exam I prepared is on Monday, right?
Kids :Well, yeah….
G. Do you want to get good grades?
G: So stop teaching Chinese to Matt! No foreigner in this office can be better than me!
K. Gosia, you are méng méng da !
G: Hmm, I am…shenme?
Fearing a big failure of Monday's test, my dear victims explained to me that it’s just a very popular expression among Chinese netizens lately. And méng just means cute. This word is doubled because it is a common Chinese way to emphasize something or make it sound like a child's talk. My Chinese friend ( who is my other secret resource I won’t share with my colleagues) put it like this: ’Chinese way of typical children’s talk is mainly doubling words. That makes them sound softer. Therefore Chinese parents will double the names of their precious ones to make them sound less formal and more lovely. So because méng means cute, it will sound even more adorable if we double it .And da is just a sound, without any meaning’.
Ok, so he got me confused a bit. I understood doubling part, but why do we need to add meaningless sound? Then my friend enlightened me and said ‘méng méng da’ is like a Chinese version of the kissing sound ‘muaahh’ .If something is cute and adorable, obviously you want to give it a kiss. Simple.
So when can we use it? Turns out that méng méng da is most often used as a means of self description. For example, my above mentioned friend often boldly says ‘I don’t look my age, I look 10 years younger because of my boy-ish face. I am so méng méng da !’ But you can also use it to describe other people’s behavior. As long as it falls into ‘cute’ category.
My Chinese teacher and our students often get a kick out of our heated ‘Mandarin competition’ and the tricks we use to get ahead of each other. What is a serious matter to us, to them is just amusing ‘méng méng da laowais’ acting like kids themselves. I just hope that watching our ‘language battles’ the teachers’ pets won’t forget we are also there to teach something to them. And that their exam results depend also on their ESL preparation, not just following my order and depriving Matt of their Mandarin insight. No matter how méng méng da it seems to them!
My name is Gosia and I come from Poland. I set up my blog - Shanghai City Girl - out of my passion for writing,Chinese language and Shanghai itself.My goal is to explain Chinese slang and peculiar local culture, give tips about health and saving money in this overwhelming city!
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