The next time you hear a native Chinese speaker call themselves a ‘homeboy’ in English, don’t assume that they’re trying to be cool.

“Homeboy is Chinglish for zhainan,” explains Zoe Zhou, the COO of Seed, a language education startup based in Shanghai. In Chinese, zhainan, which literally translates to ‘home man’, refers to males who don’t leave the house and avoid social contact – quite different from the comparable English expression.

“One of the biggest challenges [for our users] is speaking English,” she says. “It’s hard to practice at school, […] and they don’t know if what they’re saying is right or wrong.”

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Eva Xiao

Eva Xiao is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. Contact her at eva.xiao@technode.com or evawxiao (wechat & twitter).