Besides the flaws I can see as a non-native Cantonese speaker continuing to speak to my five-year-old school-aged son pretty much exclusively in Chinese, I became concerned when I was listening to a TED Talks Daily podcast about emotions and how languages who have a additional words for particular emotions enable those speakers to be aware of those feelings. So what does that mean if I’m only giving kiddo one word for “happy” when I know plenty of synonyms in English such as “content”, “glad”, “joyful”, etc.? Are there emotions that I haven’t given words to because I don’t know them in Chinese and that is hindering the kid’s emotional development?
Further, in one of the parenting books I was most recently listening to, the very first thing a parent should do, is to articulate the child’s emotion so that the child feels understood and in the future has a word for that feeling rather than just acting out.
Thus, it’s time for me to look up and learn vocabulary for emotions! I started the structure of the table with one of many emotions charts that I saw online. Most recently, I saw in her January 4 Stories, @sofunmandarin post her Chinese translation of emotions displayed on the back of @mylittleset emotion pieces. That spurred the idea for me to create the image below.
In going through these emotions (word), I thought about uneven distribution of the words I know, and the literal meaning of some of the words, thinking Chinese is so awesome. Further notes than those in the table can be found below reflecting on my particular experience with some of these vocabulary.
|Happy||開心||hoi1 sam1||generic, standard "happy"|
|高興||gou1 hing3||VERY happy - celebration level|
|幸福||hang6 fuk1||happiness that is associate with luck|
|快樂||faai3 lok6||also means "happy" and I commonly use in "Happy birthday", "Happy new year", etc. - @sofunmandarin used this one|
|* Hurt/grieved||傷心||soeng1 sam1||literally "injured heart"|
|* Sorrowful||難過||naan4 gwo3||literally "difficult to get passed" - used by @sofunmandarin|
|* Miserable||淒涼||cai1 loeng4||more extreme than just sad|
|* Disappointed||失望||sat1 mong6||literally "loss of dreams"|
|* Regretful/remorseful||後悔||hau6 fui3|
|心酸||sam1 syun1||literally "sour heart"|
|生氣||saang1 hei3||"fresh/become air" - to get angry|
|Annoyed||激氣||gik1 hei3||with the sense of "distressed" or "upset" added in|
|Anxious||心急||sam1 gap1||"heart racing"|
|憂慮||jau1 leoi6||what @sofunmandarin used|
|糊裏糊塗||wu4 leoi5 wu4 tou4||muddle-headed (per Sheik) - the one I grew up with|
|Worried||揪心||zau1 sam1||"tugging heart" - finally, I know the words/characters my mother used, she says this one often!|
|Surprised||訝異||ngaa6 ji6||said wrong, it sounds like "dentist", ngaa6 is more like the tone for porcelain than for tooth|
|至奇||zi3 kei4||"it would be really strange if... , to be really surprised if..." - hard to remember|
|Jealous||眼熱||ngaan5 jit6||"hot eye" - easy to remember but definitely colloquial|
|妒忌||dou3 gei6||why does another word for jealousy have 2 female radicals (妒嫉)|
|Embarrassed||尷尬||gaam1*3 gaai3||embarrassed with a strong sense of awkward - appropriate in Mandarin per @sofunmandarin|
|瘀爆||jyu2 baau3||"bruise explode" - sounds like nothing but embarrassed|
|下不來||haa6 bat1 loi4||"refuse to come down; feel embarrassed" - eloquent but wordy|
|Confident||老定||lou5 ding6||literally "old certainty" - (per Sheik) calm and confident; unflappable - seems purely Cantonese|
|自信||zi6 seon3||self-confidence (per Sheik) - @sofunmandarin used this one but doesn't seem right without a "have"|
|Lonely||伶仃||ling4 ding1||almost onomatopeic it seems - purely Cantonese|
|寂寞||zik6 mok6||very proper - used by @sofunmandarin|
|Sleepy||眼瞓||ngaan5 fan3||literally "eye sleeping" - Cantonese term|
|想睡||soeng2 seoi6||a Mandarin term, literally "wanting to sleep" - @sofunmandarin used it|
|Nervous||緊張||gan2 zoeng1||like tighly wound nervous|
|Hurt||傷||soeng1||injured - what @sofunmandarin used|
|Grumpy||鬧脾氣||naau6 pei4 hei3||the pei means spleen, not as I previously thought, skin|
|Sulky||苦悶||fu2 mun6||close enough: means "feel down; dejected; depressed"|
|Shy||怕醜||paa3 cau2||literally "afraid of embarrassment/ridicule"|
|Mischievous||反斗||faan2 dau2||funny enough the Chinese (Cantonese) name for Toys R Us is 玩具反斗城 , literally "toys mischievous city"|
|Silly||傻傻地||so4 so4*2 dei6*2||"kind of silly"|
|Proud||自高||zi6 gou1||literarlly "self is high"|
- Disappointed/Sad: Thus far, I’ve been saying “mm hoy sum” for sad, that is “not happy” and often using “seung sum” (hurt) and “suht mong” (disappointed) for the milder sad.
- Excited: I haven’t had the Chinese word for this and it’s long overdue that I looked this one up as it’s an oft-ussed word in this household. Same goes for “surprised”.
- Frustrated: Kiddo knows this one because Daddy Pig from Peppa is often accused of being “mung jung”!
- Kind: Kindness is an emotion?!
- Shy: The literal translation for “shy” is “afraid to be embarrassed/ridiculed”, hmm.