In one of my English classes last week, the students wanted to talk about mǔqīn jié 母亲节, so I let them.
After a while, the discussion turned (I turned it) to whether the students had ever said “I love you” to their parents or heard their parents say “I love you” to them. The overwhelming majority said “no” to both. They said that they knew their parents love them because of all the sacrifices they’ve made, but they’ve never heard them say “I love you.”
They agreed it’s common in songs, and lovers might say that occasionally to each other, but it’s rarely said between parents and children.
Ok, just to put closure on my cheap, shock-value title, “téng 疼” really does mean “to love” in addition to being the same character for “hurt” (although, I’m pretty sure it can’t be used transitively for “to hurt” the way I did in the title). What was interesting to me was: when I asked them in English “Do your parents say ‘I love you'”, they (most of them) shook their heads. But later when the student said her parents say ‘wǒ hěn téng nǐ 我很疼你’, they (most of them) agreed with that.
So, questions for the reader(s):
- What does that ‘wǒ hěn téng nǐ 我很疼你’ REALLY mean? Is it really just another way of saying “I love you”? If not, what’s the difference?
- (For our Chinese reader): How prevalent is this phenomenon? Is it true that parents prefer to use the word “téng 疼” over “ài 爱”?
If you’ve got answers or theories, please enlighten us.