In the last lesson, I showed you How to say mom, dad and baby in Chinese? In today’s lesson, the Chinese words I will teach teaching are aunt and uncle.
As you learned from the last lesson, the English language does not differentiate between paternal and maternal relations. There is not a distinction for the maternal and paternal grandparents they are all “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. Similarly, “aunt” is for bother father’s sisters and mother’s sisters. Father’s brothers and mother’s brothers are both called “uncle”.
In contrast, the Chinese language places an importance on the differences between paternal and maternal relationships. In the Chinese language the words for “grandma” and “grandpa” of paternal side and maternal side are strictly distinguished in pronunciation and writing.
The same rule applies to “aunt” and “uncle” in Chinese language. The Chinese word yima is for aunt on mom’s side, and guma, dad’s side. Similarly, “uncle” on mom’s side translates as jiujiu, and bobo or shushu, dad’s side, depending on the age.
You may notice there are two words for “uncle” on dad’s side, while only one word on mom’s side. This is because, traditionally, paternal relatives are regarded as basic units of Chinese social structure; more attention is paid to addressing the paternal relationship. A typical example is that specific terms are used to address different relations in accordance with their different ages in paternal family, while in maternal family this kind of delicate detail is ignored.
As a result, both for “uncle”, bobo is for dad’s older brother, shushu for dad’s younger brother, whereas jiujiu is universally used for mom’s older and younger brother.
On the other hand, dad’s older and younger sisters are both called guma. There is not a different word for the dad’s older sister vs. younger sister, since Chinese society traditionally pays more attention and respect to men than women.
You may wonder: if dad has more than one bobo or shushu, how would you address them? This is a good question! In that case, the ordinal numbers are prefixed to these terms, such as “first bobo”, “second bobo”, or “first shushu”, “second shushu” and so on.
To make it easy for baby to start, let’s assume dad only has two brothers, older brother bobo, and younger brother shushu.
Let’s take a look.
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Or you can view the presentation in an interactive mode: Chinese Learning for Babies (Lesson 1-Family Members): how to say aunt and uncle in Chinese?.
What do you think? Drop me your comments, ideas, suggestions or complains here, so that I can keep improving this program. I hope you and your baby like the series and continue learning Chinese week by week, month by month, year by year.