This is an example sentence from my textbook:


Here "非" has the meaning "not" or "non-".

I would translate it to something like:

Aside from studying using language to express your deep philosophical thoughts and emotions, you also must study non-language methods of expression.

I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around what is meant by "non-language methods of expression".

At first, I thought this might be referring to gestures, but gestures are also a kind of language, namely body language or "肢体语言".

What is meant by a non-language method of expression?

  • It's very vague on what 'non-language' expressions it's refering to. It could be anything other than human languages. Commented May 23, 2012 at 2:42
  • 2
    What about "non-verbal expressions"
    – fefe
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 10:58

3 Answers 3


Your understanding is right.

"非语言表达方式" means expressing things without using language, here the word "language" means just spoken and written language, gestures are not considered as "language" here although they can be refereed to as "肢体语言".

The reason is that you need to understand the word "language" here by context. The word "language" from the first half of the sentence means spoken and written language, e.g. Chinese here, so it still means that in the second half of the sentence.

Actually, the reason we Chinese sometimes call gestures "肢体语言" is that it serves the purpose of expressing thoughts and emotions, just like what we can do with the "real language".

There are other similar phrases like "艺术语言", which means the way of expressing by practice of art.

Hope this helps :)


I would not translate 语言 as language here at all. It sounds forced. Study is also a bad choice of word here. In fact, the whole English sentence sounds unnatural to me.

Aside from learning to use words to express one's thoughts and feelings, one must also learn to express oneself without using words.

  • Words here may refer only to spoken words, but you could also interpret it as both written and spoken.
  • Also, when used before a verb like in your example, sounds very awkward to me. It's best to move it immediately after the auxiliary verb.
  • 非语言 refers to everything other than using words: body language, music, art, morse code or whatever method of communication or expression you can think of that doesn't involve using words.
  • Thanks for your input. Maybe next time I should specify, I am not translating to make it sound like English or to make it seem beautiful, but just to verify my understanding. I think studying Chinese has corrupted my English grammar to the point where my English is sometimes unwieldy. I understand the distinction you're making by separating language as an umbrella topic & spoken language (or words, as you translated it). I guess I was mostly just confused by the dictionary, which does not make that distinction.
    – aelephant
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 10:56
  • 1
    The more you understand the source language, the better your translations will be and the more freedom you will have to manipulate the target language. I am sorry if I sounded a little... pedantic. I am just glad to see more people investing their time in learning Chinese! Commented May 23, 2012 at 20:28
  • Not at all James, I appreciate your input!
    – aelephant
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 5:01
  • @JamesJiao It's good to be pedantic when using languages. Don't worry about it! Besides, being pedantic makes your answers more accurate, because you'll be worried that they'll be ambiguous and this will make you write more. :D
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 8:28

I agree with @fefe who posted his/her answer as a comment.

非语言方式 is non-verbal ways, which include 肢体语言 (body language), 面部表情 (facial expressions), etc.

The book might be encouraging you to explore the cultural differences and social cues. For example, shaking your head in China means "no." Typically, European and some American men pull out chairs for their female guests/partners -- that's something Chinese people should know if they are serious about learning English.

And 思想感情 is not necessarily "deep philosophical thoughts and emotions." I think you can see it more like a 成语 (idiom) that means "thoughts and emotions."

  • 1
    I used 思想 in a conversation with a Chinese friend and she said, "Don't use that, Chinese people don't say that." So I asked my teacher and she said 想法 is thoughts but 思想 is a special kind of thought, like the sort of thing people will quote 100 years from now. So for example, 孔子 had 思想 but I don't have 思想 regarding what I should eat for dinner, I have 想法. Does that mesh with your understanding?
    – aelephant
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 5:00
  • @aelephant nice explanation... :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 8:27
  • @aelephant Your teacher is right about the distinction between 想法 and 思想. But in your example, "思想感情" is more like an idiom that means "thoughts and emotions." For instance, you would see on a Chinese exam "这篇文章表达了作者什么样的思想感情" (what message is the author trying to convey, i.e. "what thoughts and emotions does the author have in his essay"). So 思想 alone is indeed "deep philosophical thoughts" and more like a school of thought, but 思想感情 is "thoughts and emotions."
    – gonnastop
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.