This blog is for those of you who have already learned some basics of Beijinghua (北京话, Beijing Dialect) and are ready to take their Erhua (儿话, another term for Beijing Dialect) to the next level. Having lived on and off in Beijing for many years, I’ve found Beijinghua to be a lot of fun and, oddly, a natural fit with my American accent. The American pronunciation of “r” for words like “water” and “car,” to the untrained ear at least, sound a lot like the “r” in Erhua, though I’m told there are some subtle differences. Laobeijing (老北京, native-born Beijingers) really appreciate any effort at using the dialect, and it definitely helps with bargaining and negotiating with locals. The following are 10 commonly used Beijinghua expressions that require an intermediate level of Mandarin to say, but it takes a lot more than that to understand what comes in response.
A person that one has grown up with since childhood
Nǐmen liǎ zěnme nàme shōu xī wǒmen liǎ cóngxiǎo jiù zài yīkuài er, wǒmen liǎ shì fāxiǎo’ér.
Why do you seem to know each other so well? It’s because we grew up together since we were small; we are childhood friends.
Next door neighbor. In both standard Mandarin and Beijinghua, the character is 壁 (bì, wall) for the second part of the word, but standard Mandarin uses the character 隔 (gé, separate) in front, meaning “separated by a wall.” But Beijingers use the character 介 (jiè, between), indicating “between walls.”
Tā zhù zài wǒ de jiè bì er.
He lives next door to me.
Piàn tāng huàr
To gossip. This is a colorful expression because it literally means “flat noodle soup talk.”
Nǐ xiǎo shuǎi zhè piàn tāng huà er!
You better stop gossiping so much!
The Beijinghua word for gecko is different from the standard Mandarin word, 壁虎 (bìhǔ, wall tiger). Instead, they say 蝎了虎子, which means “scorpion tiger.” I’m not sure why Beijingers add the word scorpion. Perhaps it is the gecko’s ability to drive scorpions away by depleting their primary source of food, crickets.
Běijīng rén guǎn bìhǔ bù jiào bìhǔ, jiào xiēle hǔ zi
Beijing people call geckos “Scorpion Tigers.”
Jiǔ diǎn kāihuì nǐ hái méi dào, nǐ kuài yīdiǎner, jiù děng nǐ, málier!
Our meeting starts at 9 o’clock and you still haven’t arrived; hurry up, we’re waiting for you, so snap to it!
Mǎnzuǐ pǎo huǒchē
Literally translated, it means “a train running around the whole mouth.” It describes someone who is talking nonsense.
Lǎo zhāng zhè rén zǒng shuō méi biān er dehuà zǒng shì mǎnzuǐ pǎo huǒchē.
Old Zhang is always exaggerating. Everything he says is complete nonsense.
To finally become silent and at ease. Word-for-word, 消 (xiāo), means to extinguish and 停 (tíng) means to stop.
Jièbìr xiǎohái’ér yītiān dào wǎn chāochaonàonào bù xiāoting.
The next door neighbor’s child is always crying and making noise, and it just won’t pipe down.
Pàng sānr zhè rén xīxīhāhā méi zhèng xíng
Fat Number Three Son is always joking around, he’s never serious.
Zài zhège kènjiér shàng wǒ néng zuò de hěn shǎo.
At this critical moment, there’s not much I can do.
Chuánwén èr líng yī’èr shìjiè mòrì yàgēn er jiù méiyǒu zhè huí shì er.
The rumor about the end of the world taking place in 2012 is simply not true.
Keep a look out for more of my upcoming blogs on Beijinghua. If you’re more of a beginner, here is an introduction to the basics – Beijinghua 101.
Photo courtesy of Carole Lauener