Over the past few months, I’ve collected some of the differences I’ve observed between Chinese and English, of which I will outline here:
东西 means “thing,” but you should watch out how you use it. If you were trying to tell somebody that they weren’t an object and you said 你不是东西, you’d be communicating nearly the worst thing you can say to somebody, namely, “you’re not even a thing you’re so worthless.”
大家 (everyone) means “everybody.” If you’re going to talk to people in a meeting, use that one. Using 你们 (the plural “you”) can come off as overbearing and distant, a spin doctor might even say “out of touch.”
一般 (generally) is used to refer to things in general. People do not like committing to judgments that could haunt them later, so they may refer to the way things are generally instead of commenting on a specific situation.
应该(should) is along those very same lines. People will say something “should” happen, but are not overly willing to commit to a certain outcome. After reading “the black swan,” I’m not overly willing to assume an outcome of things either.
Use these terms with the footnotes provided and you will be able to develop your 语感 (sense of language) more quickly.
东西 dong1xi1 – thing
大家 da4jia1 – everybody
一般 yi1ban1 – generally
应该 ying1gai1 – should
你们 ni3men2 – you (plural)
语感 yu2(3)gan3 – language sense