How to say “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” in Chinese

The idiom that expresses “birds of a feather flock together” isn’t expressed so vividly in Chinese as it is in English, but it is a very useful and often-used phrase.  Surprise your Chinese friends.  It is expressed as wùyǐleìjù ( 物以类聚): “things,”   yǐleì “the same category,”  “get together.”  If you are learning Chinese and are enthusiastic, find some other enthusiastic birds to flock with. You will learn a lot faster.  You’ll find it flocking easy.

 

Míngbái, Bù míngbái, Bù míng bù bái

 

If you have studied Chinese for 4 or 5 months, you probably know míngbái ( 明 白 ), a Chinese word meaning ‘clearly understood.’  Bù míngbái ( 不 明 白) is what you say when you aren’t  quite sure or you are confused about the meaning of something. Wǒ bù míngbái (我 不 明 白) (I’m not clear).

When you are not clear about what your are hearing or reading, you can either apologize (Duìbuqǐ) (对不起) (which also means ‘excuse me’) and  say “Wǒ bù míngbái“  (我 不 明 白) and/or politely ask him to explain a little (Qǐng nǐ jiěshì jiěshì) (请 你 解 释 解 释). However, you would NOT want to ask someone to speak míngbái yīdiǎnr (speak it out a little clearer), because it would imply he is hiding something or lying.

A fun idiom is bù míng bù bái (neither clear nor white) ( 不 明 不 白 ) , used to refer to  hazy written or spoken ideas, speeches, talk, rules, or even behavior.  Laws are sometimes bù míng bù bái so that power can overrule law, when convenient.

One song shows you another way to use míngbái. The lyrics are written out in pinyin and translated into English in the notes.

A Song by Della Ding 丁噹 – Ming Bai 明白

There is another song called Ming Ming Bai Bai Wo de Xin. You can Youtube it, if you want. See how it’s translated.

Bāng dàománg Yuè bāng yuè máng

Bāngmáng (帮忙) means to help (bāng), or literally ‘help with busyness’ (忙). We can often say ‘help someone with something’ like ‘help him wash dishes.’ (bāng tā xǐpánzi) (帮 他 洗盘 ). However, when well-intentioned people try to help you, but they seem to be more of a hindrance than a help, you could complain to others that they bāng dàománg (帮 倒 忙).  This expresses that when they tried to help (bāng,) the opposite (dào) occurred making you busier (máng).  Another way to say it is yuè bāng yuè máng (越 帮 越 忙) is funnier: the more he helped, the worse (busier) it got.  Could be similar to “he was just getting in the way.”

Greeting, Seating, and Serving Guests in Mandarin Chinese

Greeting, Seating, and Serving Guests in Mandarin Chinese

 

Mrs. Di           Nǐ hǎo.                                      (Hello.)

Bartender     Dí Tàitai! Hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn!           (Mrs. Di!  Long time no see!)

Mrs. Di           Zhēnde hǎojiǔ!                          (It really has been a  long time!)

Bartender     Qǐngzuò. Qǐngzuò.                    (Sit down. Sit down.)

  Lái hē yībēi shuǐ.                      (Here, drink a glass of water.)

Mrs. Di            Xièxie. Máfan ní le.                   (Thank you. I’ve troubled you.)

Bartender      Aīyā! Búyòng kèqi.                    (My goodness! No need for humility.)

For a similar lesson and intensive practice click here.