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Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School Paperback – November 24, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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  • Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School
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  • Dirty Chinese: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!" (Dirty Everyday Slang)
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  • Dirty Japanese: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!" (Dirty Everyday Slang)
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eveline Chao is a freelance writer based in Beijing. She is extremely fortunate to have foul-mouthed Chinese friends willing to teach her words that most Chinese would be too embarrassed to reveal to a foreigner.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Original edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295568
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I speak Chinese pretty well and wanted to shore up my slang, plus it's just kind of fun to know how to cuss people out. This book was a help in that regard. It's a pretty exhaustive list, it's well categorized, and there's good notes explaining when each slang is used. I've learned a lot of new words, and more importantly, I found out that I was sometimes using an uncommon or scientific word, instead of the proper slang.

So mostly I'm positive about this book, and I recommend it highly. But I'll concentrate on the negatives, just because it's difficult to judge a slang book, and to let other buyers know what they're getting into. My first complaint is that while the book is largely accurate, it isn't entirely. Maybe a couple percent of them are off. I don't think it's just the vagaries of slang or regional differences, because I asked several people here in Shanghai about them, and they all told me "no way." Anyway, it's worth double checking favorite terms.

Secondly, this is (for the most part) Beijing slang. OK a lot of the vocabulary is universal, and that's particularly true to the (really excellent) Internet slang section. On the other hand, there's a lot of words that I don't think most people would say in Shanghai. For a non-native speaker to use many of these words would be bizarre. I wonder, do people in Beijing swear a lot more? Even though she addresses the issue in the introduction, I think the author drastically overestimates how often and how deeply people swear. And a whole lot of the insults would instantly lead to a fight. Oh yeah, and the book is missing common Mandarin slang words that are used in Shanghai.

Third, it's CRAZY that this book has pronunciation guides for people who don't even know pinyin.
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I am a 50+ yo engineer/businessman who has been working about 6 years to learn conversational Chinese, to support myself in frequent business travel to China. My success with learning Chinese can best be described as "modest"!

Most formal education on foreign languages teaches an artificial "classroom" version of the language. As a simple example, language lessons will teach one how to order tea and stop there. In the real world, however, even such a simple task will require real world vocabulary. I was stopped cold on the first attempt to order tea by questions such as, "Green tea or black tea?"

In contrast, this book makes good on its title, teaching "Real Chinese", usable for real situations, including lots of slang terms,
insults, etc.

I would recommend this to anyone trying to learn Chinese for real everyday use in China. Further, I would note that many of the chapters would be especially valuable to students and other young people trying to prepare for social encounters.

I have shown the book to several of my Chinese friends and they have generally endorsed the content as accurate and timely (representing real world usage in mainland Chinese cities in the 2012-2013 timeframe.
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I had this book sitting on a coffee table one night when I invited a number of my Chinese friends over for dinner. While I think the book was aimed at foreigners learning Chinese, it will simply captivate a room full of mainlanders for hours on end - they absolutely loved it. So much, in fact, that after everyone left the book was nowhere to be found! So take it from me: buy more than you think you need. I found my second copy of Niubi to be as fun to read as the first - it's definitely the authority on street Chinese language. I enjoyed this book and think it would make a great gift to anyone who is Chinese or learning Chinese.
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Nah, but this is an amusing and informative read for those not easily offended. Street Chinese in all it's glory. Even if you only remember a handful of these gems, you will be able to either impress or get arrested on the streets of Shanghai! I have slid one or two of these phrases past some culturally tolerant Chinese friends and a few of them are not in as common use as the author would have you believe. That said, it may be that my Chinese friends aren't street savvy enough to recognise hip Mandarin when they hear it!
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Ms. Chao has written a great book that functions as not only a cultural anthropology tool about the Chinese language but also as a practical language instruction guide. All the words or expressions described in the book have the Chinese characters, the pinyin with tone marks, a pronunciation guide and an explanation of what the word literally means, how it is used and where the expression came from. The words and expressions are well-organized into sections - she even has a section on computer and internet expressions and slang.

I've already used some of the milder expressions from the book to great effect. If you are studying Chinese at any level or visiting China this book is an invaluable resource covering material that simply isn't available anywhere else. Her explanations are insightful and add significant depth to the book. I can't wait for her next book.
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I have been studying Chinese for a while and this book is really a rare find. It has a lot of modern terminology that you won't find in any school textbook. Beware though... this book is dirty! Some of the entries even made me blush!
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