For example:


Which of the following translation is correct?

  1. He speaks English, German and Greek.


  1. He speaks English, German and Hebrew.
  • 1
    It's probably 英德西. 西 refers to Spanish. 英德西 is often put together. – dan Sep 20 '20 at 4:35
  • @dan, then what if he knows exactly English, German and Greek? How do you say this in Chinese? How about English, German and Hebrew? – Zuriel Sep 20 '20 at 4:36
  • If the term can't be well identified, we should not brief it as a single character. When 英,德,西 is presented, we all know what it refers to. But with 希,it's hard to figure it out. you can say 他会说英语,德语,希腊语 instead. – dan Sep 20 '20 at 4:40
  • @dan, so people abbreviate English or German or Spanish as a single character in Chinese but never Greek or Hebrew? – Zuriel Sep 20 '20 at 4:42
  • 1
    There isn't a rule to block you abbreviate anything. However, people might ask you to clarify if they are not easily identified from the context. – dan Sep 20 '20 at 4:46

Yes, 希 can refer to Greek, 希腊; or 希伯来 Hebrew; But I would be very carful in using it as it may causes confusion unless the context is very clear. For example, 他會説英德希三種語言。is confusing, definitely not Spanish (西 would be used). But is it 希腊 or 希伯来? For minor languages (in the sense of not many people use it), we tend to use the full name: 希伯来语,希腊语,意迪绪语,... etc. Alas, this so happened in human history: "The last Mohigan"; the 莫歇语 (the only person who know it passed 10 years ago), especially the languages spoken without writting.



This is just a theory in process but I believe that there is some merit to it.

If we look at the other abbreviations we can see a slight pattern:

  • 英 = 英国 / 英语
  • 德 = 德国 / 德语

I have to assume that these abbreviations were first used for the countries themselves rather than for their languages.


  • 希中 = Greece-China

  • 希中商务理事会 = Greece-China Business Council

  • 中希 also works for China-Greece.

Conversely, there is no country called Hebrew. 以 is the abbreviation for Israel. Hebrew can even be referred to as 以色列语. I would expect 以 to be the abbreviation if Hebrew was being spoken of here, just out for the sake of clarity.


Most like Hebrew.

I searched "希语" via Baidu. Most results on top show "Hebrew".

Search Result

It means when a Chinese person uses "希语", he/she'd probably mean "Hebrew". Hebrew isn't popular in China, but still more popular than Greek. They're 小语种.

Actually, it's the writer's wrong. It will make reader feel confused. There are many example of this kind of wrong:


"阿"? "阿尔巴尼亚(Albania)"? "阿根廷(Argentina)"? "阿尔及利亚(Algeria)"? So, usually, we don't use "阿" instead name of anyone of these countries without context. If you can post the context, that's better.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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