Conversation Connectors: 不好意思,你别介意,别往心里去

“Conversation Connectors” are very useful in Chinese (or any language you’re learning) when you are looking for something to say and need to give yourself time to think it through. The term was coined by Anthony Lauder, who has a huge list of these on his site (for use with learning Czech but the same phrases exist in Chinese too!) at https://sites.google.com/site/fluentczech/connectorstarterpack, and Benny Lewis praised them rightly on his site www.fluentin3months.com. Over a series of posts, we’ll share a bunch of these little life-savers for you to apply to your daily life.

Today we’ll talk about:

不好意思…
bùhǎo yìsi
Sorry -OR- Sorry for…

你别介意, 不过…
nǐ biè jièyì, búguò
Don’t take offense, but…

别往心里去,不过…
bié wǎng xīnlǐ qù, búguò…
Don’t take it personally, but…”

All of these are used in the context of wanting to politely disagree with someone. Perhaps you feel like they are a little touchy, that talking with them is like walking on eggshells. They might 发脾气 (fā pí qì- lose their temper) at any moment, so you are preparing them to hear something you think they don’t want to hear.

不好意思 bùhǎo yìsi is the most basic. It can be used alone to simply to say sorry, or it can be used to say “Sorry for (insert thing you feel sorry for)”. It can also be used to get someone’s attention when you are about to ask them for something, almost as if to say “Sorry to ask, but would you mind turning the Air Conditioner on, you know, since its a MILLION degrees outside!” (Oh, China).

你别介意,不过… nǐ biè jièyì, búguò: This would literally translate as “You don’t mind, but…”, but think of it as “Don’t take it personally, but [insert criticism]”. 介意 means to “take offense or to mind”, which is actually quite poetic when you consider than 介 can mean “armor” and “意“ means “meaning”. So its sort of like saying “armoring your meaning”, or rather not being open to a new idea or statement (hence taking offense to it). 别 means “don’t”, so you are basically telling someone not to put up their defenses. 不过 just means “but”, the classic thing you say right before something your conversation partner doesn’t want to hear.

别往心里去,不过… bié wǎng xīnlǐ qù, búguò: “别” and “不过” we’ve covered, so let’s look at “往心里去”。“往” simple means “towards”, 心里 means mind or heart, and “去” simply means to “go”, so this translates well as “Don’t let this go to heart, but [insert criticism]”.

So look at that, you are ready to criticize anyone now without offending them! What a power… 😉

Conversation Connectors
21 December , 2017