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I am trying to make clear distinctions between the use of the following words. It would be great if you have any extra information which could help me!

交通 - 1) to be connected, n. transportation, communications - Q1: what sort of things would be connected with 交通?

交流 - to communicate (2 sides don't necessarily know each other)

联系 - 1) n. relationship between things, 2) v. to get in touch with so - Q2: is this after a long time (to get "back" in contact), or just generally?

接触 - 1) to touch/connect (physical), 2) to contact, to communicate (与/跟) - Q3: what sort of physical action would constitute 接触?

沟通 - to communicate - Q4: what distinguishes the act of communicating through 接触, 沟通, 交流 (and 练习 if 练习 isn't contacting someone after a long time, per above)?

交际 - n. communication, social intercourse

打交道 - to come into contact with / have dealings with - Q5: what sort of people/things would you have dealings with? Under what circumstances would you say that you have had dealings with so/sth?

  • 3
    Stack Exchange generally works best with a single question per question. (In fact there's a close reason which includes "Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once.") In future, if you have multiple questions, I recommend asking one of them (showing prior research) and take some time to understand the answers before separately asking the second question, etc. – Becky 李蓓 Mar 10 at 1:58
  • Hey Becky. I understand your concern, however one thing I would say is that - for vocab learning - words are best learnt in groups. If you open a question for each item here, then it is unlikely to help other learners in the future when they want to compare the different words for 'communicate' in HSK5/6. In fact, that is part of my problem. Lots of resources explain what X or Y means, but very few discuss the ability to know when X is a better choice than Y, or vice versa. Especially given that Chinese vocab is so huge! – Hashamyim Mar 10 at 6:14
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Q.1 The way 交通 is used in the past may be different from what we use nowadays, it is mainly used in describing traffic. However, if you read from old chinese literature, 交通 can be used in describing roads that are connected or linked such as “阡陌交通” from 陶渊明《桃花源记》. It may also be describing figurative speech such as "山川涸落,天气下,地气上,万物交通" from 《管子·度地》which implies everything around the world is linked to each other. These are only used in literature and are rarely used.

交流 means a transfer of information between two parties. It can be used in many different cases, such as 艺术交流, which means a interaction between people about art, 学术交流, which means the discussion of academics between people. It is mainly used when it is with a group of singular people discussing on a single topic or it may be two different groups of people interacting with each other. A word that could be used together with 交流 is 切磋, which in this case, means the clash of ideas.

联系 is usually used in somewhat formal settings. It might be people exchanging phone numbers for work then saying ‘我们以后会再联系联系’, meaning that they might call them later when they have spare time and he/she might want to sell a project to the opposing party. So it isn't necessarily a long period of time. However, in casual talk, it usually implies a long period of time where you have not been in contact with someone, such as “我们真的很久没有联系了”. So depending on where and how you use it the time period may be long or short.

Q.3 接触 does not only mean physical contact. An example of a non-physical contact may be 眼神接触 which means that their eyes meet each other. But for physical contact or 肢体接触, the range of physical contact may differ from just a slight accidental touch to rugby or american football style of clashing against each other.

Q.4 沟通 is comparatively the least formal way of saying communicate out of all the other words, but it also means the conveying of one message to another. It could be divided as 语言沟通 or 肢体沟通 in which one means the conveyance of message through words and the other is conveying through body language. I hope that this could sort of answer your question as there is a slight difference to all the words but they still mean communicate in English.

交际 as you have said, is mainly in a social manner where you would chat casually with friends or could even be used when meeting new friends.

For 打交道, it is not used in a "you" scenario, it could be used when countries make dealings which one another or when dealing with high government or company officials.

I hope I answered all of your questions and good luck in learning Chinese!

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  • Thanks ever so much for the detailed answer, Mark! That's really helpful. All I've got to do now is remember it! Lol – Hashamyim Mar 10 at 6:09
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Q1: what sort of things would be connected with 交通?

places are being connected. e.g. "建公路交通兩地" (build highway to connect the two places

Also:

交通(v): back and forth" E.g. "交通來往" (to and fro, back and forth)

交通(n): "traffic" E.g. "香港的交通很繁忙" (H.K's traffic is very busy)

交流 - to communicate (2 sides don't necessarily know each other)

Also: 交流(v): to exchange (idea, knowledge, information)

联系 - 1) n. relationship between things, 2) v. to get in touch with so - Q2: is this after a long time (to get "back" in contact), or just generally?

In general. You can get in touch with people you didn't know before

接触 - 1) to touch/connect (physical), 2) to contact, to communicate (与/跟) - Q3: what sort of physical action would constitute 接触?

接触 means "make contact; touch" you can use part of your body to 接触 (touch) anything. And two objects physically make contact is also 接触, e.g. 電線接触到水 (electric wire makes contact with water)

沟通 - to communicate - Q4: what distinguishes the act of communicating through 接触, 沟通, 交流 (and 练习 if 练习 isn't contacting someone after a long time, per above)?

沟: to mix, to circulate

沟通 : means "to exchange (idea, feeling) ;

打交道 - to come into contact with / have dealings with - Q5: what sort of people/things would you have dealings with? Under what circumstances would you say that you have had dealings with so/sth?

people who are not in your circle. We don't say "與父母打交道" or ""與朋友打交道", but we do say "與美國人打交道" , "與某公司高層打交道"

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  • Thanks Tang! As always, a very informative answer :-) – Hashamyim Mar 10 at 6:10

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