Friday 31 May 2013

Mandarin – A Basic Introduction and Useful Phrases

Mandarin is the most spoken native language in the world, with over 1 billion speakers. With China’s continuous emergence on to the global scene, people from all over the world are beginning to learn this fascinating language not just for fun, but also to increase job opportunities and global insight. Whether travelling to China on holiday or for business, it is important to know a few Mandarin phrases to really appreciate your time in the Middle Kingdom.

Though the fastest growing economy in the world and a main contender on the world stage, many Chinese people can still not speak a lot of English and whilst travelling there you may have slight difficulty expressing yourself. Like the British, the Chinese have recognised the importance of their language in communication and thus have not fully emphasised and encouraged the importance of learning different languages. I however am challenging this way of thinking and am here to teach you some basic phrases to start you off on your wonderful journey that is the study of Mandarin.

When learning any language, the first phrases you usually learn are ‘hello’, ‘how are you’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

·       Hello 你好: To say Hello, the Chinese say Ni Hao (pronounced ‘knee how’) Ni means You in English. Hao means good in English. So together they literally translate as ‘You Good’

·        How Are You? 你好吗?: To say how Are You?, the Chinese say Ni Hao Ma (pronounced ‘Knee How Ma). Ni and Hao mean the same as in Hello; the Ma sound makes the previous words a question. There three characters together therefore literally translates as ‘Are You Good?’

·        Please : To say Please, the Chinese say Qing (pronounced ‘Ching’) The word Qing means please, but can also mean to invite, e.g. invite someone to help you, or invite someone to dinner.

·        Thank you 谢谢: To say Thank You, the Chinese say Xie Xie (pronounced ‘Shia Shia’) The word Xie alone means Thank you, but to emphasise the meaning, the Chinese repeat this word to say Xie Xie.

When travelling in China, it is also important to know a few phrases which can greatly help you have a smoother trip.

How do you get somewhere _____怎么走?: To ask How to Get Somewhere, you can say ‘_______Zenme Zou?’ (pronounced ‘Zen Me Zo’). The literal translation of Zenme Zou is How do you go? To use this effectively, you can put any location or place in front of Zenme Zou to ask how to get there.
e.g Tiananmen Square Zenme Zou - How do you get to Tiananmen Square?

Shopping is usually an important part of any tourist’s trip to China and it is important to know two phrases in relation to shopping:

           How much? 多少钱?: To say How Much?, the Chinese say DuoShao Qian? (pronounced ‘Door Show (ow as in cow) Chee-En) Duoshao means How Much, Qian means Money, so together the meaning is How Much Money?

      Can you make it a bit Cheaper 便宜一点吗?: To say Can you Make it a bit Cheaper?, the Chinese say Pianyi Yidian Ma? (pronounced  Pean Yee Yee Dee En Ma) Pianyi means Cheap, Yidian means A little and Ma is the same as in Ni Hao Ma making it a question. So, altogether the phrase literally translates as Can you make it cheaper a little?

This is the first of two parts on Chinese vocabulary and useful phrases which are helpful to any trip in China. Please look out for part two of this vocabulary extravaganza.

For any information regarding travelling in China please call on 020 7487 2999 or email us on You can visit our website at 

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