Learning Chinese – Necessary Phrases to Learn for any Beginner

2010 December 30
by Ben

Learning any new language can seem daunting. New vocab, new grammar and new pronunciation are a challenge. Learning Mandarin Chinese is not unlike learning any language but there are some distinct difficulties. Unlike English or any Germanic or Romance language, Mandarin Chinese is written with characters and spoken with four tones. Though it is actually a very logical language, at first, it is difficult for native English speakers. So where do you start? A great place to begin is some basic phrases.

“Hello” is the most important word. Saying hello in a foreign language breaks the ice, shows a friendly demeanor and is a universal sign of respect. 你好 Ni Hao is “Hello” in Mandarin Chinese. Ni Hao, pronounced ‘nee how’, is a form of greeting in any situation to people of any age or status. Since Mandarin Chinese has four tones Ni Hao is spoken with the 2nd and 3rd tones respectfully. * After you say 你好 (Ni2 Hao3) an introduction is only natural. 我叫… (Wo3 Jiao4) is how to say “my name is…”. If your name is Frank, you would say “我叫 Frank” (Wo Jiao Frank). To ask “What is your name,” you would say, “你叫什么名字” Ni Jiao Shen Me Ming Zi (Ni3 Jiao4 Shen2 Me {no tone} Ming2 Zi4). In addition you may want to say where you are from. “我是美国人” (Wo3 Shi4 Mei3 Guo2 Ren2), is how you say “I am American.”

Besides these ways of introducing yourself, it is also curial to convey politeness when speaking a foreign language. Saying “Thank You” is the way to show your appreciation and kindness. 谢谢 (Xie4 Xie4) is “Thank You” in Mandarin. In the same vein is 不客气 (Bu4 Ke4 Qi4) is “You’re Welcome.” In case have done something that has offended your Chinese listener “Sorry” is crucial to have in your back pocket. 对不起 (Dui4 Bu4 Qi3) can be used in any situation to apologize. Hopefully you have not insulted anyone and can end your conversation with a casual goodbye. (再见)Zai4 Jian4… Goodbye!

These phrases cover the most important words you can say in Mandarin Chinese. Hello, Thank You, You’re Welcome and Goodbye are things anyone likes to hear. Being gracious and polite is the way to start learning a language. Your speaker will know you don’t speak Mandarin Chinese fluently but if you can master the above phrases major cultural gaps can be bridged. Chinese people are always excited when foreigners speak even just a little bit of their language. You will even get a complement about how good your Chinese so is well spoken. I guarantee it.

* The four tones in Mandarin Chinese are a high flat tone, a rising tone, a dipping tone and a falling tone. Nihao “Hello” is a bit irregular. Ni by itself which means you is a third tone and hao, by itself is also a third tone. However combined together the third tone of Ni becomes the second tone but hao’s tone stays the same. In the end, everyone will understand Ni Hao no matter what tones you use.

One Response leave one →
  1. KHURSHID KHAN permalink
    May 9, 2015


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