The Quest for “Anyway” II: Success!

It’s all thanks to Jenny at Chinesepod, in the upper intermediate lesson called Group Photo. She and John go off on a little tangent talking about “làngfèi gǎnqíng” 浪费感情
and then Jenny wants to get back back to their previous topic, which is the dialog they just listened to.

At 7:39 in the MP3 file, Jenny and John have his exchange:

Jenny: John, nǐ jīngcháng zhèiyàng làngfèi dàjiā de gǎnqíng, shì ba?
你经常这样浪费大家的, 感情?
John, you often waste everyon’e emotion like this, right?

John: xièxie.
谢谢.
Thanks.

Jenny: (laughing) Búguò, wǒ juéde jīntiān de duìhuà hěn yǒu yìsi. wǒmen zài tīng yì biān.
不过, 我觉得今天的对话很有意思. 我们在听一遍.
Anyway, I think today’s dialog is very interesting. Let’s listen again.

I had to ask a Chinese friend to confirm that’s what Jenny actually said because it’s reduced to what sounds like “buo.” But there’s no doubt: that’s what she said, and that’s what she means. I’ve added “anyway” as a definition for “buguo” in the online dictionary.

If you want to know what all that talk about “wasting emotion” is, you’ll have to listen to the whole Chinesepod lesson.

I can’t wait to go out and start saying “anyway” all the time in Chinese.

Comments

  1. Unless an actual chinese person could declare you completely correct. I’m going to stick with my previous understanding..,

    That buguo, means “however” (slightly negative)
    Similar to KeXi..,

    Anywhoo..,

  2. KF,

    I agree completely. I’d love the real live Chinese people to chime in and confirm or deny what I’m saying. The only problem is that they may understand exactly what buguo means to them, but not what “anyway” means to us. It’s a kind of a catch 22.

    By the way, when you say “similar to kexi” do you mean kěshì 可是 = but, however. If so, maybe this “buguo” here should be translated as “But anyway…”

  3. I asked two chinese natives well educated in english, and they told me that there is no word like “anyway” in chinese, and that “BuGuo” means more like “DanShi” 但是.

    To switch subject they would use “LingWai” 另外,for example 另外你的工作是怎么样? ”LingWai Ni De Gongzuo shi zenmeyang

    But, keep on searching, I might be wrong!

  4. 不过 is most definitely not “anyway”. Chinesepod like all the other stuff out there is full of things like that. Don’t trust it for a minute.

    Daniel is right, “anyway” doesn’t exist in chinese the way it does in english, deal with it.

    Occasionally, 反正, 不管, 不管怎么样, etc will fit, like chinesepod thinks 不过 “fits”, but it certainly doesn’t make it a rule or even often right. And besides, it’s almost never the usage of ‘anyway’ that you’re actually looking for.

    Try explaining the in some ways similarly used “besides” to chinese people and you’ll realize you’re about to enter a world of pain.

    The common use of besides in english.

    I’m tired and and I haven’t eaten anything all day. Besides, John’s going to be there and he’s going to be with Crissy and I just take that.

    This is not 另外 and it is not 而且. It is a usage of besides that is not learned and poorly understand and is very similar to some uses of anyway, thought not quite the same as the one you are looking for. Sometimes you can use 反正, but its not really great and it doesn’t mirror the chinese of 反正 very well.

  5. I think I can be of help here!

    言归正传 matches “Anyway” in some contexts. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned it here, because it’s very commonly used, authentic putonghua.

    What it means is “Back to the original topic”, or “Anyway, as we were saying…”

    Try it out. Works like a charm.

    Other useful ‘conversation routers’ that are normally hard to translate authentically include:
    说到这儿
    说到那儿

    “Speaking of this/that…”

    Hope this helps!

  6. Joe,

    Can’t wait to try out “yán guī zhèng zhuàn” 言归正传. If that’s the ticket, I think I’ll have to get a recording of it and do a special post featuring that phrase (and of course it’s source: you).

  7. Aww, thanks. 🙂 Let me know how it goes! It’s usually used after you’ve made a considerable digression, as I understand it. It’s most apt when the original topic is more ‘central’ or ‘important’. My conversations meander a lot, so…

    From what I’ve heard listening to Chinese people, one way of handling the 铺垫 required for a subject change (Pu1dian4 is a great concept to keep in mind when you’re learning Chinese… it takes the whole vague ‘high context/low context’ culture and makes it concrete, and gives you a great way of soliciting feedback from Chinese people on whether you’re getting that right.) is simply ‘’, followed by a 停顿.

    (Side note: Do you have an e-mail address I could get in contact with you at?)

  8. In Taiwan, people who know english don’t give two shxts, they drop more anyways than the enola gay over hiroshima.

    言归正传 – never heard it used in informal conversation in my life. Furthermore, it doesn’t address the issues posed by the uses of anyway.

    While anyway can signal a return to a topic after a digression, it can also signal many other things, as Joe said.

  9. I’m sorry to say my informants have also vetoed 言归正传 as being correct but not commonly used. I think they would just say, either
    1. “nà…” and then pause (like you said)
    OR
    2. “hǎo le/de… 好了/” and then pause

    or something like that.

  10. Just an update, something I mis-stated earlier: 说道这儿 works, but 说道那儿 is awkward and not to be used.

    As for 言归正传, usage levels might be heavily dependent on who you’re interacting with. Perhaps 2/3rds of the people I’m talking with here have master’s degrees, and beyond that the rest generally have B.A.’s at least. I’m now realizing that I haven’t heard it used by anyone below the college grad level.

    Another possible formulation for returning to the previous topic (that I *might* be remembering partially wrong, don’t have all my notes on-hand):

    那,来到你刚刚说的。。。

    This actually raises an interesting question: What’s your personal tolerance for using expressions that many Chinese wouldn’t commonly use themselves, but would hear and recognize as 地道 nonetheless? I admit my own tolerance is relatively high, because I think of this as an internal feature of Chinese as well; there’s a huge range of Northern-origin expressions in Putonghua that Southerners won’t use (even when they speak Putonghua), but will readily understand if they hear them.

    The other dilemma I think is interesting is whether one should translate a concept accurately in a way average Chinese professionals may not understand (e.g. 新自由主义, or Neoliberalism) and then explain the concept, or simply state the concept in a way that’s — strictly speaking — inaccurate but conveys the ‘gist’, more or less: Nobody I’ve met here outside of fellow DJ’s knows what a 重混 (remix) is, and I get sick of explaining, 不是原版的,是。。。, so I go with 翻唱 (a cover), and they all get it, even though strictly speaking it’s not the same. And again outside of the DJs, few people get what a 转盘 (turntable) is, so I just go with 音响设备 and they get enough of the ‘gist’ to avoid confusion. I’m curious what everyone else’s individual tolerances for this are, and which words/situations cause you to have to make these choices.

    Sorry for not catching the non-universality of 言归正传 earlier, though!

  11. Just to clarify the above comment, I should say that few Chinese people get what a 转盘 is in a *DJ context*. It’s more commonly used in other contexts to refer to all sorts of rotational, circular things (we’ve all seen 餐桌转盘, for instance), which only heightens the confusion when you’re talking about DJ mixing.

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