“爱好” (Hobbies, àihǎo) is one of the first topics covered in beginner Mandarin textbooks. It’s a nice entry lesson, but it’s arguably rather too formal and stiff for daily conversation in any language. Can you remember the last time you asked a fellow English speaker their hobbies?! I know I can’t.
It turns out that it’s not so common in Mandarin either. According to the Chinese teachers at Lingo Bus, for native speakers, it’s too formal to ask others the following, unless perhaps in an interview or on a blind date.
Nǐ de àihào shì shénme?
(“What are your hobbies?”)
Below are a few alternative questions and answers that sound more natural to native-speaking ears:
Nǐ píngshí xǐhuan zuò shénme？
What do you like to do in your free time?
Nǐ zhōumò yìbān zuò shénme？
What do you usually do on the weekends?
Wǒ xǐhuan [xué zhōngwén]
- 我喜欢 [学中文]。
I like [to study Chinese].
Wǒ píngshí xǐhuan [qù jiànshēn].
- 我平时喜欢 [去健身]。
I normally like [to go workout or see friends].
Wǒ yǒukòng shí jiù [qù tī qiú ]。
I go to play soccer once I have time.
Wǒ yǒu shíhou huì qù [pá’shān ]。
Sometimes I [go hiking in moutains].
Wǒ méi shí jiān zuò xǐhuan de shìqing ！
I don’t have time to do what I like!
Wǒ shì yíge gōngzuòkuáng ！
I’m a workaholic!
Wǒ xǐhuan chángshì xīn’xiān shìwù 。
I like to try doing new things.
Of course, when talking about hobbies, you can always add adverbs expressing degrees, like “非常”, “特别”, “不太”, etc., to specify how much you like to do a certain thing.
非常 (fēi’cháng, very much)
特别 (tèbié, really, especially)
不太 (bútài, not that much)
It will almost always be helpful to the conversation by showing interest in other’s hobbies. You can use “也” to achieve this:
Wǒ yě hěn xǐhuan xué zhōngwén.
I like to learn Chinese too.