Learning Chinese 學中文Parenting 3G-CBC

Cantonese vocabulary words for emotions for toddlers

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 sam1generic, standard "happy"
高興gou1 hing3VERY happy - celebration level
幸福hang6 fuk1happiness that is associate with luck
快樂faai3 lok6also means "happy" and I commonly use in "Happy birthday", "Happy new year", etc. - @sofunmandarin used this one
* Hurt/grieved傷心soeng1 sam1literally "injured heart"
* Sorrowful難過naan4 gwo3literally "difficult to get passed" - used by @sofunmandarin
* Miserable淒涼cai1 loeng4more extreme than just sad
* Disappointed失望sat1 mong6literally "loss of dreams"
* Regretful/remorseful後悔hau6 fui3
心酸sam1 syun1literally "sour heart"
生氣saang1 hei3"fresh/become air" - to get angry
Annoyed激氣gik1 hei3with the sense of "distressed" or "upset" added in
Anxious心急sam1 gap1"heart racing"
憂慮jau1 leoi6 what @sofunmandarin used
Confused困惑kwan3 waak6@sofunmandarin
糊裏糊塗wu4 leoi5 wu4 tou4muddle-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 ji6said 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 gei6why does another word for jealousy have 2 female radicals (妒嫉)
Embarrassed尷尬gaam1*3 gaai3embarrassed 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 ding6literally "old certainty" - (per Sheik) calm and confident; unflappable - seems purely Cantonese
自信zi6 seon3self-confidence (per Sheik) - @sofunmandarin used this one but doesn't seem right without a "have"
Lonely伶仃ling4 ding1almost onomatopeic it seems - purely Cantonese
寂寞zik6 mok6very proper - used by @sofunmandarin
Sleepy眼瞓ngaan5 fan3literally "eye sleeping" - Cantonese term
想睡soeng2 seoi6a Mandarin term, literally "wanting to sleep" - @sofunmandarin used it
Nervous緊張gan2 zoeng1like tighly wound nervous
Hurtsoeng1injured - what @sofunmandarin used
生病saang1 beng6@sofunmandarin
害怕hoi6 paa3@sofunmandarin
Grumpy鬧脾氣naau6 pei4 hei3the pei means spleen, not as I previously thought, skin
Sulky苦悶fu2 mun6close enough: means "feel down; dejected; depressed"
Shy怕醜paa3 cau2literally "afraid of embarrassment/ridicule"
Mischievous反斗faan2 dau2funny 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 gou1literarlly "self is high"
  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. Frustrated: Kiddo knows this one because Daddy Pig from Peppa is often accused of being “mung jung”!
  4. Kind: Kindness is an emotion?!
  5. Shy: The literal translation for “shy” is “afraid to be embarrassed/ridiculed”, hmm.