Happy New Year in Chinese

It’s a brand new year again! The first order of business, of course, is to make one or more New Year’s resolutions. We all know that resolutions are easy to make and just as easy to break. It takes determination and great effort to keep one’s resolution and follow through. And what joy the rewarding outcome! Think of Breanna Bond.

新年 (xīnnián) is the New Year. 目标 (mùbiāo) is an objective or a goal. 计划 (jìhuà) is a plan or a project. 新年新计划 (xīnnián xīn jìhuà) means the new plans for the new year to reach your objective.

Please note that (huá), pronounced in the second tone, means to row a boat, as in 划船 (huáchuán).

志愿 (zhìyuàn) is an aspiration or an objective, and 决心 (juéxīn determination, resolution) is required to reach one’s goal. The following refer to the action of resolving to do something to accomplish an objective:

下决心 (xiàjuéxīn)
立下决心 (lì xià juéxīn)
立下志愿 (lì xià zhìyuàn)

Tā xiàjuéxīn tíngzhǐ xùjiǔ.
He resolved to stop drinking excessively.

她立下志愿, 一定要考上大学.
Tā lì xià zhìyuàn, yīdìng yào kǎo shàng dàxué.
She was determined to make it into college.

One way to keep your resolution is to make it a 座右铭 (zuòyòumíng), which is a motto or a maxim that one constantly keeps in mind. (zuò) is a seat, (yòu) is the right-hand side, and (míng) is an inscription.

With your heart set on a goal, you make a resolution; that’s not unlike making a “Cross my heart” schoolyard oath. And what do you get when you make a long stroke across the character for the heart, (xīn)? Yes, (bì), which means certainly or surely.

Mind this remark made by Confucius thousands of years ago:

Sān rén xíng bìyǒuwǒshī.
When three people walk together, among them there will definitely be a teacher for me.

This could also be interpreted as, “When I’m with two other people, I can definitely learn from at least one of them.” In other words, you can always learn something from anyone.

必须 (bìxū) is an adverb that means “must” or “have to”, while 必需 (bìxū) is an adjective that means “needed” or “necessary”. Even many Chinese incorrectly use these two words interchangeably. Below is a sentence to help you see the distinction.

Wǒmén bìxū mǎi zhèxiē bìxūpǐn.
We will need to purchase these necessities.

必定 (bìdìng) and 必然 (bìrán) both mean definitely or certainly.

不必 (bùbì) means “need not”.

Bùbì kèqi.
No need to be so courteous. (Make yourself at home.)

何必 (hébì) means “What’s the point of doing it?” or “There is no need to do it.” I remember walking with a friend of mine on the campus of a research institution years ago. Her surname is (Hé). Apparently a couple male colleagues got interested in my friend. They approached and asked what her name was. She answered impatiently,

Hébì wèn!
No need to ask!

From then on, my friend became known by the nickname 何必问 (Hé Bìwèn).

未必 (wèibì) means “not necessarily”.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Or, perhaps your New Year’s wish or aspiration, 愿望 (yuànwàng)? If you email it to me in English, I could include a Chinese translation of the first ten submissions in my next blog.

Happy New Year in everyday Chinese is:

Xīnnián kuàilè!
Happy New Year!

Or, you could say,

恭喜! 新年好!
Gōngxǐ! Xīnnián hǎo!
Congratulations! Have a nice New Year!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Javi
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 08:10:15

    my new year resolutions are to be a better person, improve my chinese and get graduated.


  2. Anthony Bogadek
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 15:27:14

    Hi dear Ms Lin,
    Thank you for lesson No1 of the year 2013; eagerly looking forward to many more lovely lessons. Two points to ask you about:
    1. at one point you list three characters (座右铭 (zuò) is a seat), but you give the meaning of only the first character. Should the second and third characters be left out since each one is defined in the line that follows?
    2. further down the lesson you have the word “compus”; I guess it should be “campus”.
    Happy New Year to you,
    Anthony B


    • likeabridge
      Jan 03, 2013 @ 16:56:52

      Hats off to you Anthony. The corrections have been made. FYI, this time I did run the article through my spell-checker. However, as all the pinyin text was flagged, it was still easy to miss my typos.

      Have a wonderful New year!


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