Have you been polite today?

I recently saw the poster below at a Subway sandwich shop in Taiwan, and it stood out right away – what could a poster about social ethics be doing in a sandwich shop? Well, for whatever reason, it’s a good excuse for us to learn some Chinese from it, so I took a quick snap while waiting for my sandwich to be made (…and before you put finger to keyboard to slam me for going to Subway when there’s so much tasty Taiwanese food to be had, everyone needs a sandwich now and again!).

Have you been polite today?

Rather than translate the whole poster, I’ve picked out a few interesting parts – the first being the most important word:

禮貌(礼貌)

Pinyin: lǐ mào
English: polite, politeness, manners

A very useful word, an example of its use might be:

不管去哪裡,他都很禮貌(不管去哪里,他都很礼貌
bùguǎn qù nǎlǐ, tā dōu hěn lǐmào
No matter where he goes, he’s always very polite

To say impolite, all you need do is a 「不」 to make 「不禮貌」.

The most interesting part of the poster, and something that stood out to me since I first started learning Mandarin is the …了沒 usage. Basically means “or not”, but has more of a “haven’t you…” feeling about it. The poster above says:

你今天禮貌了沒?(你今天礼貌了没?)
nǐ jīntiān lǐmào le méi?

This could be translated along the lines of “Have you been polite today, or not?”, or “Haven’t you been polite today?” with more of a questioning tone – if not, the why not etc. I first saw this usage on an advert for Wii when I first came to Taiwan. The ad read:

你今天玩Wii了沒?(你今天玩Wii了没?)
nǐ jīntiān wán Wii le méi

If you have the time, download and read the larger version of the poster and see how much you can understand. The rest of the poster talks about situations that might be considered impolite, the importance of manners in a civil society, and some simple ways that you can be polite. Here’s a few words from the poster that should help you reading:

社會(社会)

Pinyin: shè huì
English: society

行為(行为)

Pinyin: xíng wéi
English: behaviour

價值觀(价值观)

Pinyin: jià zhí guān
English: values

文明(文明)

Pinyin: wén míng
English: civilised, civilisation

需要(需要)

Pinyin: xū yào
English: a need, a want

6 responses to “Have you been polite today?

  1. Can’t read the whole poster because it’s traditional characters, but thanks for getting some key words and phrases from it! It seems that in Taiwan they like posters like this as much as in China. Chinese people really like slogan banners and educational posters hanging everywhere you go.

    1. This kind of poster is actually quite a rarity in Taiwan, which is why it stood out – though I have heard about the painted slogans and posters in China.

  2. It looks like you make mistake with 行为 and 价值观 pinyin.

    Very useful words indeed =) 我今天很有礼貌了!

  3. Interesting article!Perhaps 《没礼貌》by 大嘴巴 can add some ‘fun’ to your article…check it out

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