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So you have learned how to say mom, dad, baby (see How to say mom, dad and baby in Chinese?), younger sister, older sister, younger brother and older brother (see How to say sister and brother in Chinese?) in Chinese. In today’s lesson, the Chinese words I am teaching are grandma and grandpa.

First, let me give you a brief introduction about the language and culture background. The English language sees no difference between paternal and maternal relations. “Grandma” is for both father’s mother and mother’s mother. Father’s father and mother’s father are both called “grandpa”.  

In contrast, the Chinese language places an importance on the differences between paternal and maternal relationships. The differences mean a lot to Chinese people and determine the real relationships, near or distant, inside or outside, between relatives.

Therefore, in Chinese language the words for “grandma” of paternal side and maternal side are strictly distinguished in pronunciation and writing: laolao or waipo, is for grandma on mom’s side, and nainai, dad’s side. Similarly, “grandpa” on mom’s side translates as laoye or waigong, and yeye, dad’s side.

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Why there are differences between paternal and maternal grandparents in Chinese language? Traditionally, paternal relatives are regarded as basic units of Chinese social structure, while relatives of mother’s, sister’s or daughter’s are regarded as “outside” of the core of the family line. That is why wai, meaning “outside” or “far and away”, is usually used to address maternal relatives.

To make things even more complicated, for maternal grandma, there are two words, waipo and laolao. Generally speaking, laolao is more commonly used in the north part of China, whereas waipo is more common in the south. Similarly, laoye is used in the northern China, and waigong, in the southern China.

To make it easy for baby to start, the Chinese words for maternal grandma and maternal grandpa in today’s lesson don’t contain any wai, or “outsider”. Therefore, grandparents on both dad’s side and mom’s side are equally important.

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Let’s take a look.

grandma on mom's side

grandpa on dad's side

grandma on dad's side

grandpa on dad's side

Watch PPT presentation for the complete lesson. Due to the size of the program, content in the frame below may display blank. Simply refresh the current webpage or press F5 on your keyboard for the refresh function. (Please enable your computer audio and increase the speaker volume. You can hear the words when they are spoken and follow the sound track):

Click here to see the whole screen PPT presentation.

Or you can view the presentation in an interactive mode: Chinese Learning for Babies (Lesson 1-Family Members): how to say grandma and grandpa 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.

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Related posts:
How to say mom, dad and baby in Chinese?
How to say sister and brother in Chinese?
How to say grandma and grandpa in Chinese?
How to say aunt and uncle in Chinese?


  1. 1
    nick crill // November 30th, 2011 at 4:01 pm


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