Thursday, September 15, 2011

Being humble in Chinese language


Nǐ shuō zhōngwén shuō de hěn hǎo

You speak very good Chinese

How should you response if someone compliments you like above? You will probably say

谢谢 (xièxiè): Thank you

Next time try the following instead 哪里,哪里 (nǎlǐ, nǎlǐ)

哪里 (nǎlǐ): where

It literally translates to “Where? Where?”, and it is a polite way of responding to a compliment. It is also like saying “Where is my Chinese good?”

Using 哪里,哪里 instead of 谢谢 has two advantages. Firstly, people will think that your Chinese is actually really good. And more importantly, humility is valued highly in Chinese culture.

Another polite way to respond to a compliment is 不敢当 (bù gǎndāng)

(bù): no; not; do not

敢当 (gǎndāng): dare

It literally translates to “do not dare”, and it is like saying “I wouldn’t dare to accept such a compliment”.


  1. This is a good one. How many times did you have to say 哪里 when you were in China?

  2. Once I learned about it, I was using it all the time :)

  3. This site is great for simple, clear and instant Chinese. I had already learned the first phrase for being humble, but had never heard the second one. I too will now use it when I can.

  4. Thank you Jonathan for your kind words. Glad you know that you learned something new.