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Is there a clear translation for the phrase "Take a gap year" (i.e. take a year off between your last year of high school and college (often for travel, work, etc.))?

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I don't think there is a 'clear' translation because of the culture difference behind it. Chinese people don't take a gap year until very recently and the few who do are still considered rebel by many. It hasn't become that popular yet to have a well-known terminology. In some circles it's just called gap year, gap年 or 间隔年.

间隔年 is probably the best option for now, but you may still want to define or explain it to the audience beforehand. This translation has actually made its entry on Baidu Baike and appeared in a book title 迟到的间隔年.

You can see how some people still refer to the concept as 'gap year' in discussions like this, which suggests the Chinese term hasn't got its full popularity yet.

As for the verb ('take'), I think the best context-free translation is 体验 (to experience). Depending on the context you can also use 开始 (to start) or (to have). E.g.

He decided to take a gap year after graduation. 他决定毕业后体验间隔年 (formal) or 他决定要个间隔年 (colloquial).

His friends took a gap year right after graduation, but he didn't. 他的朋友们一毕业就开始了间隔年,但是他没有。

  • How would you say "take" in this case then? "做个间隔年?“ – Stephen Oct 12 '14 at 14:50
  • @Stephen 做个间隔年 doesn't sound good. Depending on the context you can say 开始间隔年 or 体验间隔年. See my update to the answer. – NS.X. Oct 12 '14 at 19:24
  • If I need to say "I'll take a gap year before college," I would say "大学前我间隔了一年" and use 间隔 as a verb. – Timothy Gu Oct 16 '14 at 0:37
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We call it '间隔年' in Chinese. And there are some books telling stories about the gap year experience of chinese young guys. You can find them on amazon, for example '迟到的间隔年' http://www.amazon.cn/gp/product/B002OED6QK/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1_gs9w ('A gap year for being late' translated in English) .

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