Carl Gene is on a Roll

I recently came across Carl Gene’s blog, which he describes as “My Journey from Translation Student to Working Professional.” This is a great example of learning by teaching and sharing. Not only is this a great resource for students of Chinese, but I’m sure Carl is benefiting tremendously from the work he’s doing to research and organize this information.

Here are some of the examples of the entries Carl has been writing:

20 Actually Useful Chengyu (成语)

23 Actually Useful Proverbs (谚语)

10 Chinese Love Idioms

31 Words For Idiot In Chinese

12 “Untranslatable” Words In Chinese

When your goal is to be a professional translator, it’s important to pay attention to the nuances of different words, and it looks like Carl is off to a good start. If you’re just starting out and trying to learn basic Chinese, this probably won’t be the best approach to start with, but definitely at least check out Carl’s blog.

Related Sinosplice Content:

My Chengyu Top Ten

Sinosplice Chinese Vocabulary Lists

Translator Interview Series


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Wow, thanks for the mention John, I feel quite honoured that my blog would be picked up by someone with such a reputation! If any good names for it spring to mind, do let me know…

  2. I’ve been following Carl on twitter for a little while now, and I have to say I really like his blog posts. I’m not to the point that I can really use a lot of them, but they’re really interesting and help me to learn too.

  3. Are some of those 成语 actually a 成语? I feel like they’re just expressions. Also, I’ve always found 霞 to be very difficult to translate, mostly because I find it to be a very beautiful word and one of my aunts is also named that, I feel sad that there’s not an equivalent English word. I feel like 说曹操,曹操就到 to the 谚语 list.

    • Not sure… But I’m also not sure how useful strict 成语 / 俗语 / 谚语 distinctions are.

      • I guess when I was growing up, my impression of what made a 成语 a 成语 is that it came with a little story. If there’s no story associated with it, then it falls out of that category. For example #4, 6, 16, 18, 19, and 20 all had some sort of “once upon the time story” to go with it from a very distinct time period. Also the point of a lot of 成语 is to teach a lesson. For example one of my favorite one is 邯郸学步 which tells the story about 邯郸 who discovered that the way people from another country walk is better looking, he spent a lot of effort to learn to walk that way. However, in the end, he never learned the new way of walking, but along the way he forgot how he used to walk and had to crawl back. 俗语 and 谚语 may or may not have a historic background (at least not so much a story) and does not serve to teach a lesson either.

    • I’m not sure why you think some of them might not be 成語… they indeed are.

  4. 周銳(Louis) Says: October 24, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I leaned a 成語 — “習焉不察/习焉不察”. Chinese history and linguistics professor said it is a 成語. Google search said it is a 成語. Taiwanese classmates in the Chinese department at 政大 say it is not a 成語. I think there is a lot of disagreement amongst native speakers as to what belongs to the 成語 and what doesn’t.

    • Of course – native speakers are not the guardians of their own language; this applies just as much to native speakers of English, who have their own debates about parts of speech – what is a proverb, interjection, phrasal verb, etc.

  5. Yes.

    As the line between chengyu and non-chengyu is not always clear, and in practical terms is not important, we — the learners — should focus on how and when to use the language we encounter. (Supporting John’s comment)

    @Carl — Like the blog, by the way.

  6. Just dropping a line to say that all the links end up in an error, page not found.

  7. Sorry guys, I recently reinstalled my blog after it was hacked and had to change the permalinks for the posts, but you can find them easily enough just by searching for them at the main site (

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