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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your name is Reuben?
Did you really think you would succeed?
Now you will die!