1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. "中国人です。"


Translation:I am Chinese.

June 10, 2017



I'm the only one who finds it weird that "中国" is pronounced as "Naka" in the "What does this character sound like"-exercise even when the option given is ちゅうごく Is it a bug/glitch?


This is a good question! First, I have to tell you, unfortunately many Kanjis have not only 1 pronunciation, and they are no easy rules for foreigners when to use which pronunciation. "中" is pronounced as "なか" when it means "inside" or "middle" in this sense this Kanji is used independently. That's why if you only give "中" most Japanese tell you that is "なか." But "中国" is a word consisting of two Kanjis and pronounced as "ちゅうごく" in which we use the pronunciation "ちゅう" for "中" and "ごく" for "国." Even Japanese may find Kanjis complicated sometimes, so don't worry, keep going :)


Thanks for the explanation!


Amazing, thank you for taking the time to explain that


Thank you very for the interesting explanation.


I think a very very very loosey goosey rule is just:

  • If there are two kanji next to eachother you use the Chinese reading ( おんよみ )

  • if the kanji is by itself or attached to ひらがな you use the Japanese reading ( くんよみ )


3Rton The way Duo is set up it will only allow one pronunciation for when you hover over a word, and will also allow only one audio clip for the full sentence reading. The volunteers are working hard to get around this best they can but for Japanese Kanji it is an unavoidable complication. Also, the lesson notes explain a bit about Kanji readings but not much sadly.


In fact, a Chinese version of this sentence "我是中国人 - wǒ shì zhōng guó rén - I be chinese person" is much closer to English than Japanese one.


Yes, at least Chinese is of S-V-O (subject-verb-object) structure, while Japanese belongs to S-O-V languages. Such difference is one of the reason why it's hard for Japanese to learn English.


Without context this translates into literally "Chinese" (jin meaning person so Chinese person as opposed to Chinese language). But "desu" does not tranlsate into "I am" because every sentence in Japanese ends with "desu" because its a verbal way of expressing a period in a sentence, not "I am". The "I am Chinese" is more of a sloppy/casual way of saying I am Chinese. It should be "watashi wa chyugoku jin desu" -- which translates into I am Chinese. Watashi meaning Yourself or I am.


I was led to understand that Japanese often drops the subject when it can be implied.


Sorry, that's not correct, desu means "is/am". The sentence is literally "is Chinese (person)". Watashi is often omitted in Japanese.


Nope. It is easy for beginners to remember "desu" as "am/are/is". But that is not entirely accurate. See for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYr0P_JT7HY
(Great channel for beginners of Japanese, btw.)


For example, someone could be asking someone else what nationality their friend or teacher or coworker or anyone other than themselves is, and their friend could be responding "Chyugoku jin desu." Which would not mean I am Chinese it just means Chinese (person).


I am pretty sure ppl can understand that even if it is grammatically wrong.


Oh thank you so much for this explanation! I'm just starting to learn Japanese but 'desu' always seemed like 'I am/am' to me. I thought it was the most logical for what it stands for. But I guess I need to turn off that thinking as it's a different language and some parts just don't have their equivalent in English.


According to what I learned so far and also to one of the comments here, "desu" -can- be loosely translated to am/is/are. Japanese uses context a lot, so the subject of a sentence is often not mentioned.

Default context is the speaker him/herself, so "nihon jin desu" literally means "Japanese person (I) AM".

If you add a subject/topic the sentence becomes: "Tanaka san wa nihon jin desu" which means "Mr. Tanaka Japanese person IS". The "wa" acts as the subject/topic marker.

If the speakers have been talking about Mr Tanaka all along, the sentence can be shortened back to "nihon jin desu" and it will mean "He Japanese IS," with the He referring to Mr Tanaka, the topic of the conversation.

Hope this helps.


thank you so much!


Very interesting stuff. Can someone break down the kanji for "Chinese" in this sentence? :)

Is the first one (naka) the symbol for "middle"? As in "middle kingdom"? (It kind of looks like something split down the "middle")


Sorry in advance if if I may confuse you adding Chinese to this post, but since you asked for a break down, I thought it fit. If you find yourself confused, just ignore the Chinese pinyin.

  1. According to Chinese etymology, the hànzi/kanji 中 [zhōng in Chinese; なか or ちゅう in Japanese], comes from the pictogram for a flagpole and a drum in the center of a field.

    Among other things, it indeed means middle, center.

  2. The hànzi/kanji 国 [guó in Chinese; ごく or くに in Japanese] has the character for jade or precious gem representing the emperor enclosed by the character proud, upright.

    It is very similar to the character 王 [wáng in Chinese; おう in Japanese] meaning king: horizontal strokes mean heaven, man and earth, the vertical stroke is the king himself; but they are actually unrelated characters. You can use that to remember the character, even though they're unrelated.

    Among other things, it means region, country, kingdom.

  3. The hànzi/kanji 人 [rén in Chinese; ひと、じん or にん in Japanese] depicts the side view of a standing man.

    It means man, person, people.

Finally, 中国人 [zhōngguòrén in Chinese; ちゅうごくじん in Japanese] mean Chinese when referring to a person.


Thank you! This makes sense


How does the sentence imply that whoever is speaking it is talking about himself/herself? There isn't a first person pronoun in the sentence nor or there second or third person pronouns.

How is it "I am Chinese" instead of "He is Chinese" or "She is Chinese"?


It's implied. It's like when in English you say something like: "Ever since being able to speak English, many opportunities and new doors were opened" The subject here is you, but see how it's never expressed. And as you could say "Me/he/she being able to speak English has opened me/him/her a lot of new doors" in English, in Japanese you can do the same by adding the subject (or topic) and making it explicit.


It is common in Japanese to omit the subject if it's yourself, as it is the default assumption. They omit the subject even if it's not yourself and has been established. If you always marked yourself with watashi over and over for each sentence, such wording would seem excessive and perhaps a bit self-centered.


How does this differ from "I am from China"?


The same way that "I am from China" and "I am Chinese" differ in English, not much. It's just another way to say it.


"China-person I am" ;)


中国人です。- I am Chinese (*Rough transliteration - China person)

-- An indirect way of saying that you naturally align your nationality/citizenship to China.

中国しゅっしんです。(Also can be written as 中国出身です。) - I am FROM China (*Rough transliteration - China, the origin.)

-- An indirect way of saying that you're from China, and that's it. Being someone who came from China, doesn't necessarily make them Chinese, don't you think?


On the "What sound does this make" exercise, it presented me with "中" and pronounced it "なか", but that wasn't an option. The "correct" option was "ちゆう” (which is the pronunciation we learned in-lesson, and was available). Just think it is support misleading.

Bug reported but none of the bug reporting options seemed to fit, either...


It's not a bug. It's a limitation of The Incubator. (the part of Duo where volunteers make/edit courses) The way Duo is set up it will only allow one pronunciation for when you hover over a word, and will also allow only one audio clip for the full sentence reading. The volunteers are working hard to get around this limitation best they can but for Japanese Kanji which have multiple readings it is an unavoidable complication. Also, the lesson notes explain a bit about how Kanji have multiple readings but not much sadly.


This sentence is sponsored by Winnie the Pooh.


I don't get it. plz explain.



This sentence is sponsored by DareDevil


Honestly we need the literal translations, learning becomes so much easier when you can see how sentences are made


中国人です 中国 = China, 人 = person/people, です = am/is "China person (I) am". The topic is omitted here, which is common in Japanese. If you need to establish the topic, it would go at the beginning of the sentence.

The sentence structure is Subject Object Verb, or SOV. (私は)中国人です, or 'Watashi wa Chū goku jin desu'. ("su" is usually devoiced to just "s" if at the end of a sentence)

The topic is context sensitive when omitted , so literally this could mean I/You/He/She/Them depending on what you were just talking about.


I dont get it its giving me words i dont know yet and they should also help you learn how to write it because i look at the japanese words here and pics on google and the look different.its dumb how it gives me words i dont even know!


Hover your mouse over new words (They're highlighted) to see their translations. Or click on them if on mobile.


I don't know how I'm supposed to answer a question that says, "~to be from" and write "I am Chinese." I haven’t memorized the symbols! I don't know anything!



中国 is China, and 中国人 is Chinese. This is the topic in this sentence.

です (literally "to be", or "is/am") shows that the subject is 中国人.

The subject is not established in this sentence, because it is omitted. In English, we have similar sentences such as "Want a drink?" where we leave out the "Do you want a drink?". In Japanese, it is perhaps more common to omit things than in English, as long as the context allows it.

Thus the sentence looks something like this in English: "Chinese, (I) am", which we can make more natural as "I am Chinese".


I know this is pretty off topic, but how do you write the kanjis? In comments?


Well, you have a few options. More so if you're using the desktop version of Duolingo rather than the mobile one.

  1. You can download a app/program that allows you to write out the Kanji shape and then copy/paste it, or perhaps name the first few letters for it and it list Kanji for you.
  2. If you know the word it translates to, you can go to Google Translate and plug the word in to have Google translate it into a Kanji, although you should look at the other options listed too to make sure you use the right version of the Kanji.
  3. If on Windows 10 desktop (and certain other platforms) you can set your computer to use a virtual Japanese keyboard in addition to your default one.
  4. Use this site if you know the beginning pronunciation for the Kanji (not sure how well it works on mobile, sorry) https://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/japanese.php

For me personally I have my computer using Miscrosoft IME to do Japanese typing, although I sometimes use Lex when I forget I have IME.


So do sentences not have spaces between the words?


rolosrevenge There aren't any spaces in Japanese. (at least, not normally) There isn't a need for that due to the use of Kanji, but that's a bit advanced of a topic at this point in the course.

Also what does it mean to be a Duolingo Insider, if I may ask? Your profile picture indicates such status. Just curious as I've never seen it before in the comments.

EDIT: Never mind, got my answer here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/27368695/Announcing-a-new-GA-branch-Duolingo-Insiders


i don't see 私わ i can more likely use this sentence to tell someone he is chinese ’’中国人です’’ or i'm wrong ?


It is common in Japanese to omit the subject if it's yourself, as it is the default assumption. Even if the subject isn't yourself, once it's been established you can usually leave it out for future sentences until you need a new subject. If you always marked yourself with 私 over and over for each sentence, such wording would seem excessive and perhaps a bit self-centered. If you wanted to say, "You are Chinese" instead of yourself, use あなたは [anata wa - you]. This would change the context to allow an understanding that we are talking about you now, and the same rules apply. The full sentence would be あなたは中国人です [anata wa chūgokujin desu - You are Chinese]


What desu at the end of the sentence stays for?


it is a verb: "I am.../ You are.../ He, She, It is..." Add "ka" to the end and it's "Am I...?/Is he, she, it...?/Are you...?"


It's too close to じごく (or 地獄) which means hell. Maybe that's cause of tense relations in the past?


Not at all, rather the opposite. It is a Chinese loan word. As the Kanji came from China, they brought their Chinese pronunciation along, "zhong guo" (the o in zhong is pronounced oo), which became ちゅうごく in Japanese.


Facil,mais quando alguem fala pra mim eu fico boiando


then is watashi needed for


does the separation of kanji (even though it makes the same sound) make it change from "from china" to "chinese"?


I wish there would be an option to enter your own country so that you learn that. I am Chinese will not be something I will ever say.


Given the way the questions have to be built by the contributors, I don't believe this is possible at the moment. However, I'd like to see it added none the less. They actually do cover a lot of different origins over a couple different questions though so that's good at least.


iTs CoRoNa TiMe


Not all Chinese is from China... And while most of those from China is Chinese, but not all of them...


What a coincidence! 中国人です,but i'm learning Japanese in English hh


Why can 中国人です be transcribed as "I am chinese" but also as "I come from china"???

Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.