Is the use of 'yeah' common in languages other than English?

I work in an office with a high Chinese contingent of employees. While I wouldn’t know Mandarin from Cantonese if I fell over it, what I have noticed in random conversations between these employees is ‘yeah.’ I hear it clear as a bell.

Other language speaking dopers: in your experiences *does *it show up in other languages?


Do mean literally saying “yeah” as opposed to having an equivalent word in another language? I can’t say that I’ve heard “yeah” in French, Italian, or Arabic. But I’ve heard “OK” quite frequently.

that’s a good point. i’ll amend my question to say that’s what i’m ‘hearing’ as yeah. OTOH, i’ve never heard ‘okay’ from the Chinese speakers.

If you were around a bunch of people speaking Hindi, you might think you heard them saying “yeah” a lot, but they’re really saying “yaar,” which means “friend.”

I’ve heard many (one-sided) Chinese phone conversations like (pardon my transliteration):

Dui. Dui. Dui. Hao ah. Hao ah. Mm, okay, bye.

(Translation: Yes. Yes. Yes. Okay. Okay. Mm, okay, bye.)

hogarth’s post makes me wonder: did some English tag words enter some Chinese “dialects” (chiefly Cantonese) via Hong Kong? I wouldn’t neccesarily be surprised to hear “okay, bye” in or near Hong Kong.

I never heard that in my two years in Mandarin-speaking China. I’d bet my money that it’s something your coworkers picked up in the US (or wherever you are.) When you are living abroad, a few words from your host language often end up getting integrated into your mother tongue out of laziness when it comes to code-switching, good-hearted imitation, and the sheer joy of feeling hiply bilingual.

Maybe “yeah” is particularly easy to bring into Chinese because the Chinese language does not have a straightforward “yes.” Our habit of saying “yeah” all the time must stick out a lot and be easy to imitate.

In Norway, a lot of people have adopted it in the sense of yeah, yeah yeah (get off my back).

In Scots, we say “aye”.

In bahasa Malay and Indonesian, “ya” means yes. I don’t know if it was borrowed from Dutch centuries ago, or if it’s their own.

There’s also a particle in Mandarin that sounds like ‘yeah’. It is a helping word that is tagged on to the end of a sentence to modify its mood or for emphasis. This may well be what you have heard.

‘okay’ and ‘bye’ have been completely assimilated into the language of Hong Kong. ‘bye bye’ (or just ‘bye’) is the standard way of saying farewell, and the Chinese equivalent is almost never used in the spoken language.

It’s not like I’m some kind of linguist but I’ve never heard of that. How do you express “yes” in Chinese?

I’ve noticed, while watching Chinese movies subtitled in English (Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, etc.), I frequently hear a word that is translated as “yes” in the subtitles, and that spoken word sounds an awful lot like “sure!” Obviously that’s not what they’re saying, but it, um, sure sounds like it.

Generally you would repeat the verb in mind. It works out to something along these lines.

Do you want a glass of water?

Did you eat lunch?

Did you see that exhibit at the the museum?
I saw.

For “no,” you would generally say “don’t want,” “didn’t eat,” and “I didn’t see.” There are other ways to express the affirmative, but this is the most common.

You might be hearing the beginning part of “shi de (是的)” which is the way to respond to questions involving “to be” and serves a similar purpose to saying “that’s it” when you are clarifying a situation or letting someone know that a statement they have made is correct. In some situations it can function as a generic way to say “yes.” For example:

I assume you are the assassin sent to kill me.
Shi de.
Your name is Reuben?
Shi de.
Did you really think you would succeed?
Shi de.
Now you will die!
Shi de.

Hm. Well, I don’t speak Chinese, but I can tell the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a preponderance of the word “yeah” in either.

The English word that seems to be most readily adopted by other languages is “okay”, imho.

Ah ken.

methinks even sven is likely right. it’s probably been picked up from us 'mericans.

i’m in indianapolis, IN, which is about as white-bread-bland-homogenized-midwestern-middle-of-the-road as it gets in the states. :rolleyes:

yeah, is slang, after all, and (apparently) indigenous to us as an affirmative, so i guess i shouldn’t be surprised to hear it.

the reason i did in the first place is because, quite frankly, the chinese speak better english than most of the rest of us natives, as in grammatically-perfect with little accent!

But only in Danish, not in Norwegian, Swedish and German. :wink: