Do you like Chinese TV dramas? I believe watching TV is a good way to practice Chinese, because not only is it fun, but you can also learn a lot about the culture.
In this blog, I give my recommendation for a Chinese TV drama high in popularity right now.
The drama I want to recommend is called “ 欢乐颂 (Ode to Joy)”, and is the most popular drama in China at the moment. A lot of foreigners have asked me what the show is about, so let's learn more about the show and take a look at some of the dialogue!
The story in “Ode to Joy” revolves around five women who live in Shanghai in an apartment complex called “Ode to Joy”. The series is a realistic depiction of modern life in China, and shows the lives of these five women as they struggle with love and work as independent modern women.
I highly recommend this drama as a resource for learning Chinese. It is a modern drama with everyday language, helping you practice authentic Chinese which you won't find in textbooks. It also depicts real life in the modern Chinese society, helping you understand Chinese life and culture.
You can find versions with both English and Chinese subtitles online, making it suitable to watch for learners of different levels.
Let's watch the first episode!
Let’s take a look at the dialogue which appears at 02:27~03:37 in the video above. The three girls 樊胜美 (F), 邱莹莹 (Q) and 关雎尔 (G) are talking about their new next door neighbor. The dialogue has three different ways of calling someone by their name. Can you tell what they are?
F: What are you two doing out here?
Q: Fan-jie, 2201 installed a camera!
G: Fan-jie, look. This camera can even move back and forth.
F: Installed a camera⋯to fend against thieves? Who lives in there?
G: I heard from Xiao Zheng that this person moved in several days ago, but there hasn’t been a trace of him or her.
Q: I only saw a cleaning lady come in and out of there. Didn’t see a trace of the resident. Looks like this person is a weirdo. Must be difficult to get along with.
F: Who cares? I heard from Xiao Zheng that the resident of 2203 is about to move in as well. I hope he’s a “gao fu shuai”.
Q: Gao fu shuai! Fan-jie, you dressed up to beautifully today. Are you going on a date again?
F: Don’t call me Fan-jie.
Q&G: Little Mei Mei beauty.
F: Okay, I’m going to leave now. Wish me success on my blind date.
Q&G: Good luck, little Mei beauty! Good luck! Good luck, little Mei beauty! Good luck! Good luck!
Q: Let’s go.
In the dialogue, 邱莹莹 (Q) and 关雎尔 (G) use 樊姐 to address 樊胜美 (F).
姐 is term of endearment meaning older sister, and we often hear Chinese use “surname + 姐” to address a female older than them. The male counterpart is “surname + 哥”.
On the fifth line of the dialogue, 关雎尔 (G) says “我听小郑说”, “ 小 + surname” is the way to address someone who is younger than you, and can be used for both females and males.
Sometimes we also see the same structure using 老 instead of 小.
“ 老 + surname” is often used to address a male acquaintance (usually of similar age). Be careful though, as you should not use it towards a person who is much older than you, as in that case it would be impolite. In that case, you can instead use 姐 or 哥 which we studied above.
In the last part of the dialogue, 樊胜美 (F) says “Don’t call me Fan-jie”. As we just learned, 姐 is used to address someone who older than yourself, and 樊胜美 (F) doesn’t like to be reminded of her age. Instead, 邱莹莹 (Q) and 关雎尔 (G) refer to her as 小美美眉.小美 is the same basic structure as “ 小 + surname”, but since they are close friends they don’t use the surname 樊, but use a character from her given name 美 instead. 美眉 is an internet buzzword meaning pretty girl. 美眉’s pronunciation is similar to “ 妹妹” (little sister), and the literal meaning of 美眉 is beautiful eyebrow. The Chinese think the eyebrow shows a girl's beauty, so “beautiful eyebrow” lets people imagine a beauty girl. You may also come across the shortened version of 美眉: MM.
Those are our three ways of addressing someone. Let's learn some keywords from the dialogue.
Did you enjoy “Ode to Joy”?