Chinese Terminology – Buying a computer

Computer markets in China and Taiwan are quite prevalent, and if you’re planning on spending any time in in either country chances are you’ll be visiting one of them. Even if you’re only window shopping, or just buying some upgrades, then some of this terminology will still be useful. Either way, visiting a computer market is still a great way to practice the Chinese you’ve learnt as you’ll be fending off shop assistants coaxing you into shops to look at their new wares. Then when you actually buy something, you’ll need to test out your haggling skills…老闆可以算便宜一點嗎?

Computer shop in Taiwan

First the main types of computer:

電腦 (电脑)

Pinyin: diàn nǎo
Zhuyin: ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄋㄠˇ
English: computer, and with a great literal translation 電 “electric” 腦 “brain”

桌上電腦 (桌上电脑)

Pinyin: zhuō shàng diàn nǎo
Zhuyin: ㄓㄨㄛ ㄕㄤˋ ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄋㄠˇ
English: desktop computer

筆記型電腦 (笔记型电脑)

Pinyin: bǐ jì xíng diàn nǎo
Zhuyin: ㄅㄧˇ ㄐㄧˋ ㄒㄧㄥˊ ㄉㄧㄢˋ ㄋㄠˇ
English: notebook computer

小筆電 (小笔电)

Pinyin: xiǎo bǐ diàn
Zhuyin: ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄅㄧˇ ㄉㄧㄢˋ
English: netbook computer

Now the various peripherals that you’ll need to go with your computer:

滑鼠 (滑鼠)

Pinyin: huá shŭ
Zhuyin: ㄏㄨㄚˊ ㄕㄨˇ
English: mouse

鍵盤 (键盘)

Pinyin: jiàn pán
Zhuyin: ㄐㄧㄢˋ ㄆㄢˊ
English: keyboard

螢幕/顯示器(萤幕/显示器)

Pinyin: yíng mù / xiǎn shì qì
Zhuyin: ㄧㄥˊ ㄇㄨˋ /ㄒㄧㄢˇ ㄕˋ ㄑㄧˋ
English: Monitor

網路攝影機 (网路摄影机)

Pinyin: wǎng lù shè yǐng jī
Zhuyin: ㄨㄤˇ ㄌㄨˋ ㄕㄜˋ ㄧㄥˇ ㄐㄧ
English: webcam

喇叭 (喇叭)

Pinyin: lǎ bā
Zhuyin: ㄌㄚˇ ㄅㄚ
English: speakers

麥克風 (麦克风)

Pinyin: mài kè fēng
Zhuyin: ㄇㄞˋ ㄎㄜˋ ㄈㄥ
English: a phonetic translation of ‘microphone’

掃瞄器 (扫瞄器)

Pinyin: sǎo miáo qì
Zhuyin: ㄙㄠˇ ㄇㄧㄠˊ ㄑㄧˋ
English: a scanner. The word 掃描 is the word for scan that is used for virus scan 病毒掃描 (病毒扫描), and is also used to describe scanning through the pages of the book.

印表機 (印表机)

Pinyin: yìn biǎo jī
Zhuyin: ㄧㄣˋ ㄅㄧㄠˇ ㄐㄧ
English: printer

隨身碟 (随身碟)

Pinyin: suí shēn dié
Zhuyin: ㄙㄨㄟˊ ㄕㄣ ㄉㄧㄝˊ
English: USB flash drive

隨身硬碟 (随身硬碟)

Pinyin: suí shēn yìng dié
Zhuyin: ㄙㄨㄟˊ ㄕㄣ ㄧㄥˋ ㄉㄧㄝˊ
English: USB hard drive

光碟 (光碟)

Pinyin: guāng dié
Zhuyin: ㄍㄨㄤ ㄉㄧㄝˊ
English: CD

Finally, if you are upgrading, then you’ll need to know the names of the components that are inside the computer:

升級 (升级)

Pinyin: shēng jí
Zhuyin: ㄕㄥ ㄐㄧˊ
English: to upgrade, literally to rise/promote 升 level/grade 級

主機 (印表机)

Pinyin: zhŭ jī
Zhuyin: ㄓㄨˇ ㄐㄧ
English: base unit of a computer, the tower unit

中央處理機 (中央处理机)

Pinyin: zhōng yāng chù lǐ jī
Zhuyin: ㄓㄨㄥ ㄧㄤ ㄔㄨˋ ㄌㄧˇ ㄐㄧ
English: CPU: Central 中央 Processing 處理 Unit/machine 機

記憶體 (记忆体)

Pinyin: jì yì tǐ
Zhuyin: ㄐㄧˋ ㄧˋ ㄊㄧˇ
English: memory module

硬碟 (硬碟)

Pinyin: yìng dié
Zhuyin: ㄧㄥˋ ㄉㄧㄝˊ
English: hard drive

主機板 (主机板)

Pinyin: zhŭ jī bǎn
Zhuyin: ㄓㄨˇ ㄐㄧ ㄅㄢˇ
English: motherboard

光碟燒錄器 (光碟烧录器)

Pinyin: guāng dié shāo lù qì
Zhuyin: ㄍㄨㄤ ㄉㄧㄝˊ ㄕㄠ ㄌㄨˋ ㄑㄧˋ
English: CD burner

Something worth remembering is that although most words have Chinese equivalents, that for certain components the English would just be used. For instance, it’s perfectly fine to say CD or CPU instead of the Chinese words. Certain places will also have their own usage, in Taiwan a USB flash drive is most times just referred to as a ‘USB’.

Also, as mentioned above, remember to haggle when buying computer parts! Paying with cash you will get a better deal and obviously if you are buying a couple of things you’ll have more room to bargain a better price.

Have we missed any words that would be useful to know? or are there any different ways to translate these words that you know of? Leave a message below and let us know!

  • Cool post thanks! However you missed the pinyin and zhuyin for Hard drive. However, I’ve heard some other terms as well. A CD is also 光盘 and a hard drive 硬盘。I wonder what the difference is?

  • I didn’t see a keyboard in there. 键盘 (jiànpán)

  • Nice post – it seems there is quite a difference between Taiwan and Mainland China; I’d normally say 笔记本电脑 for laptop, 音箱 for speakers, 鼠标 for mouse… Actually, quite a few of these words I would say in a different way.

    It’s funny how these have evolved differently in both places. At least now I can buy my computer parts in Taiwan too! Thanks for sharing!

  • @ConfusedLaowai, Cheers, I’ve added the Pinyin and Zhuyin.
    I think the difference in names is a mainland China and Taiwan difference, just like the Internet is called 網絡 in China, but 網路 in Taiwan. Looking at the definitions for both 碟 and 盘 they are both a dish, or plate like object.

    @shane, I’ll get keyboard added in a minute, not sure how I forgot that 😉

    @ciaocibai, thanks for the input, I knew there were some differences, one I didn’t know was 筆記本電腦, which literally is “notebook” computer, whereas 筆記型電腦 is something like note(book)-style computer. 型 is a good word to remember though as it’s used quite a lot in other places.

  • Mountain Dood

    Isn’t 鼠标 more common in China?

  • @Mountain Dude, thanks for comment. Looking at the Wikipedia article, the article is named 鼠標, but inside the article 滑鼠 is used throughout. Although I’m sure that most people, especially in a computer shop, would understand both words.

  • Chris

    還有你忘記寫五十六K數據機了

  • @Chris, yeah I wonder how you say ZX Spectrum in Chinese too 😉

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