Chinese is a tonal language, made up of monosyllabic words. Thus, there are numerous homphones, and words which sound almost like other words.
Chinese users of digital technologies have developed a creative and quick method to convey common sentiments – using a series of numbers, which sound like other words/phrases.
917753 is pronounced jiu yi qi qi wu san
which sounds like 叫你去吃午餐 －jiao ni qu chi wu fan – or I’m calling you to have lunch together.
The texter might add
246 – e si liu is code for 饿死了 － e si le or I’m starving to death
729 – qi er jiu – sounds like 去喝酒 qu he jiu or let’s go and have a drink
to which you might reply 5791 – wu qi jiu yi -我去找你 – wo qu zhao ni – I’ll come and pick you up.
Pleased about the respondent’s reply, the first texter might then type
21475 er yi si qu wu – meaning 爱你是幸福 ai ni shi xing fu －to love you is happiness.
Gratified, Texter 1 answers
14517 –yi si wu yi qi – which means 你是我洋气 ni shi wo yang qi –You are my oxygen!
So here’s the conversation:
Texter 1: 917753
Texter 2: 246
Texter 1: 729
Texter 2: 5791
Texter 1: 21475
Texter 2 : 14517
Got it? Even if you don’t speak Mandarin, you are now able to text your way, numerically, to love and romance in China.