The Quest for “Anyway”

Everyday, I use the word “anyway” in English and I really wish I knew how to say it in Chinese. I’ve had considerable trouble tracking down a Chinese word/phrase that can be used the same way we use “anyway/anyhow” in English.

The ways we use “anyway” as a kind of sentence starter in English are:

  1. To end a topic and move on to a new one. For example, at the end of a story about the milk truck we might say, “…the milk truck finally rolled away. Anyway, do you teach tomorrow?” (This “anyway” is often accompanied by a sigh.)
  2. To return to a previous topic after a digression. For example, if I’m talking about the milk truck and suddenly my story wanders off to my new computer, to get back to the milk truck story I would say, “…my new computer. Anyway, the milk truck driver had this red hat…” (This is really along the same vein as number one in this list.)
  3. To mean, “regardless.” For example, if I’m not sure whether I’ll be free to play ping pong tonight, I could explain the different things in my schedule that might interfere. Then I would say, “Anyway, I’ll call you when I know more.”

There may be even more uses of “anyway” in English but those are the three that come to mind.

I’ve asked a number of informants how to say “anyway” in Chinese and it seems that you have to choose the function from the list above, and use a different word/phrase depending on the situation.

For example, for function 1 above, they might say:

  • suàn le ba 算了吧 = forget it (let’s move on)
  • bù shuō tā le 不说他了 = (I’ll) not talk about it (anymore)

For function 2 (and maybe 1 also) they might just say:

  • hǎo (le) () = good / ok

For function 3, they might say:

  • fǎnzhèng 反正 = anyway / anyhow / in any case
  • bùguǎn zěnme yàng 不管怎么样 = regardless of what happens / of what is

Does anyone have any insight into the problem of saying “anyway” in Chinese?

Comments

  1. To end a topic and move on to a new one. For example, at the end of a story about the milk truck we might say, “…the milk truck finally rolled away. Anyway, do you teach tomorrow?” (This “anyway” is often accompanied by a sigh.)

    嘿,我说啊,

    To return to a previous topic after a digression. For example, if I’m talking about the milk truck and suddenly my story wanders off to my new computer, to get back to the milk truck story I would say, “…my new computer. Anyway, the milk truck driver had this red hat…” (This is really along the same vein as number one in this list.)

    哎呀,

    To mean, “regardless.” For example, if I’m not sure whether I’ll be free to play ping pong tonight, I could explain the different things in my schedule that might interfere. Then I would say, “Anyway, I’ll call you when I know more.”

    不管怎么样,

    The key is that we use interjections to play the first and second functions and an adverb, the third.

  2. I would like to write in Chinese.
    我刚刚才拿到汉语老师的资格,不过,我是台湾人,不住中国.我忍不住要回答你的问题.
    (but it is really time consuming for me to type in 简体字,we use 正体字 and we can read 简体字,only 汉語老师 are required to learn to write and type 简体字 in Taiwan)
    “anyway” may represent many different 语意,so when you try to translate the exactly meaning into Chinese, you cannot find one Chinese word to satisfy all situations and maybe it is not a good idea to do so.
    it is the same when you want to find a word in English to represent all the 语意 of the words “”and”” ;ect.
    I hope my English is clear enough. 我的英语不好,但是我看你对中文真的有兴趣,很希望能有点帮助.

  3. I would have translated 至少 as ‘at least’, which still makes sense in Helen’s example: ‘She works in a bank. At least, she did when I last saw her.’

    I don’t think you can translate it to mean ‘ignore other possibilities’ as that wouldn’t work in this example:

    ‘Facebook现在价值至少100亿美元
    Facebook’s current value is at least $US10 billion.

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