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Chinese Lesson

About the Chinese language

In comparison to the romance and Slavic languages, Chinese language is quite simple, in structure.  Take, for example, pronouns.  There is one word, ta, for he, she, and it.  If you want to say he, his, or him, there is no change: it is still ta, although it is sometimes embellished by adding de at the end, e.g., ta de, for his, but it is not at all necessary to do so. There is also economy in phonemes.  Chinese is a syllabic language with each syllable having meaning.  However, extra prosody is attached to syllables in the form of intonation.  There are four basic forms: high-to-low pitch, low-to-high pitch, high-to-low-to-high, and a high steady note; these changes in pitch are usually denote in pinyin (pigeon Chinese western spelling), for example, by ,,ă, and ā.  In that regard, one particular syllabic sound can have at least four meaning depending on intonation; each will be represented, however, by a different written symbol.

The spoken language has other simplifications.  There are few modifiers, there are no changes of pronouns, there is no declension of verbs, and there are, virtually, no tenses.  A Chinese expression that has made its way into the English language, for example, is hao jiu bu jian ... literally, long time no see, as opposed to the proper English expression, which might be it has been a long time since I have seen you, or wo yao qu kan ta I want go see he (she, it). 

Interestingly, questions are, often, posed as both affirmative/negative choices, like zhi dao, bu zhi dao? know, not know?  To indicate a question rather than a statement, a ma () is affixed to the end, as in ni hao ma? how are you?  However, sometimes, the ma is left out when it is clear, otherwise, that it is a questions, as in ni qi nali? you go where.

 

Pinyin Pronunciation Guide

a

Mostly pronounced as e in end, but, sometimes, as ah arm. Yuan is pronounced you en, while wanshan is pronounced wahn shahn

i

Pronounced as ee in "sheen ".

o

Pronounced as aw in "crawl ".

e

Pronounced as mostl like the "uh" in "good" but sometimes like e in "wet".  If it is ending the word, like he, to drink, or e, to eat. it gets a second "beat"

u

Usually, pronounced as "oo" in pool; must be preceded by w, if beginning; if after i, as in "liu", it is pronounced more like "o" in "oh".

c

As in cai, pronounced ts as in "tse tse fly".

ch Pronounced as ch in chunk.
h Is pronounced with a slight ligual-uvular fricative sound, like similar phonemes in German, Russian, and /hebrew.
j Always followed by "i", and is pronounced as "g" in "gee".

k

Pronounced as it usually is as in k in "klan".

n Is pronounced as the usual n sound, except when it ends a sylable, it is a more nasal, partially-deleted sound, like the n in French.
ng Pronounced as ng in sing, except when in a word, like xing, ok, it is given its own syllabic sound, more like eng: for example, xing is pronounced shee eng.
nr You might see this combination in pinying translations of Chinese.  What it refers to is that often an "n" at the end of a word is replaced by an "r" sound when comparing spoken Chinese in the south and the north of Cina, respectively.  For example, play is pronounced as wan, in the south, and as war, in the north.
r r is a difficult sound, In Chinese.  It is somewhere between r in wren and the zh in pleasure; the tongue is placed between the two.
q Also is a "ch" sound, but it is more tight-mouthed than ch
sh Pronounced as "sh" as in "shop".
x pronounced like sh in shee, but with a tighter mouth than plain sh.  Following vowels are pronounced separately and longer than with the sh sound, above.  For example, xue is pronounced shoe -e, while shui is pronounced shway.

z

Pronounced dz

zh

Pronounced as a "dj"

 

 

 

Pronouns 

There is generally only one form of pronouns, so that, for example, wo is I, me, and my, although a de can be annexed to a pronoun to denote possession, for example, wo laopo and wode laopo both mean my wife.

Wo

I

Ni

You

Ta

He, she, it

我们

Wo men

We

你们

Ni men

You (plural)

他们

Ta men

They

 

 

 

Numbers 

Numbers are, in the deeper context, quite elaborate, as there are many endings for numbering different itemns.  For example, the ge in yi ge pengyou (one friend) is used for one type of thing, while zhang in yi zhang piao (one ticket) is used for another, and there are more.  The ending, in general has to do with the shape of the item, for example,  

yi

one

er

two

san

three

si

four

wu

five

liu

six

qi

seven

ba

eight

jiu

nine

shi

ten

二十

Er shi

twenty

一百

Yi bai

100

一千

Yi qian

1,000

一万

Yi wan

10,000

Yuan

Unit of Chinese money

 

 

 

Geography

 

 

美国

Mei guo

America

中国

Zhong guo

China

法国

Fa guo

France

俄罗斯

E luo si

Russia

加拿大

Jia na da

Canada

南美洲

Nan mei zhou

South America

西班牙

Xi ban ya

Spain

英国

Ying guo

England

以色列

Yi se lie

Israel

中东

Zhong dong

Middle East

印度

Yin du

India

日本

Ri bei

Japan

奥大利亚

Ao da li ya

Australia

马来西亚

Ma lai xi ya

Malaysia

Ren

Person, people.  Plus you can annex it to a country name to get nationality, e.g., mei gou ren is American.

 

 

 

Basic words

 

 

Shei

Who

什么

Shenme

What

什么时候

Shenme shi hou

When

怎么样

Zen me yang

How

哪里

Nali (nar)

Where

为什么

Wei shenme

Why

今天

Jin tian

Today

明天

Ming tian

Tomorrow

昨天

Zuo tian

Yesterday

现在

Xianzai

Now

这个

zhe ge

This

那个

Na ge

That

这里

Zhe li

Here

那里

Na li

There

或许

Huo xu

Maybe

一定

Yi ding

Certainly

真的

Zhen de

Really

真的

Zhen de

Real

假的

Jia de

Fake

差不多

Cha bu duo

Almost

Ren

Peron

朋友

Peng you

Friend

 漂亮

Piao liang

Beautiful

班级

Ban ji

Glass

袋子

Dai zi

Bag

 

 

 

Getting around

che

Car

摩托车

Mo tuo che

Motorcycle

公共汽车

Gong gong qi che

Public bus

火车

Huo che

Train

飞机

Fei ji

Airplane

车站

Che zhan

Station

自行车

Zi xing che

bicycle

Chuan

Boat

街道

Jie dao

Street

Lu

Road

Zhen

Town

he

River

hu

Lake

hai

Sea

沙滩

Sha tan

Beach

花园

Hua yuan

Garden

广场

guang chang

Square

大厦

Da sha

Building

     
Business Words
公司 Gong si Company
製造商 Zhi zao shang Manufacturer
出口

Chu kou

Export
进口

Jin kou

Import
资产 Zi chan Asset
存货 Cunhuo Inventory

 房地产

Fangdichan

Real estate

名牌 Ming pai Name brand
贸易 Mao yi Trade
客户 Ke hu Client
企业家 Qiyejia Entrepreneur
母公司 Mugongsi Parent company
会计事务所 Kuaiji shiwusuo Accounting firm
审计 Shenji Audit
做假帐 Zuojia zhang Cook the books
行贿 Xinghui Bribery
专利 Zhuanli Patent
版权 Ban quan Copyright
知识产权 Zhishichanquan Intellectual property
专利与商标局 Zhuanli Shangbiao Ju Patent & Trademark Office
成本 Cheng ben Cost
打折 Da zhe Discount
并购 Bing gou Merger
宏观经济 Hong guan jingji Macroeconomics
通货膨胀 Tong huo peng zhang Inflation
通货紧缩 Tonghuojinsuo Deflation
保值 Baozhi Store of value
投资 Touzi Investment
经纪人 Jing ji ren Broker
储蓄帐户 Chuxu zhanghu Savings account
外贸 Wai hui Foreign exchange
汇率 Hui l Exchange rate
期货 Qihuo Commodity
证交所 Zheng jiao suo (Stock) Exchange
股市 Gu shi Equity market
上市公司 Shang shi gongsi Traded company
摘牌 Zhai pai delist
股票 Gu piao Share (of stock)
政府债券

Zheng fu zhaiquan

Government bond
投资组合 Tou zi Zu he Investment portfolio
多元化 duo yuan hua diversification
共同基金 Gong tong ji jin Mutual fund
对冲式共同基金 Dui chong shi gong tong ji jin Hedge fund
养老基金 Yang lao ji jin Pension fund
股价 Gujia Valuation
市场经济基本规则 Shishangjinji jibenguize Market fundamentalist
股东 Gu dong Shareholder
保险商 Baoxianshang Underwriter
有效市场 Youxiao shichang Efficient market
监管体系 Jian guan tixi Regulatory system
期权 Qiquan Option
看涨期权 Kanzhang qiquan Call option
看跌期权 Kandie qiquan Put option
套利 Taoli Arbitrage
风险资本 Fengxianziben Venture capital
     
     

 

 

 

At restaurants and hotels

Fan

Food (rice)

Mian

Noodles

猪肉

Zhu rou

Pork

牛肉

Niu rou

Beef

牛排

Niu pai

Beef steak

鸭子

Ya zi

Duck

鸭胸

Ya xiong pu

Duck breast

Xia

Shrimp

龙虾

Long xia

Lobster

牲耗

Sheng hao

Oyster

海鲜

Hai xian

Seafood

鸡蛋

Ji dan

Egg

you

Oil

牛油

Niu you

Butter

yan

Salt

蔬菜

shu cai

Vegetables

波菜

Bo cai

Spinach

萝卜

Luo bu

Carrots

大蒜

Da suan

Garlic

shui

Water

咖啡

Ka fei

Coffee

cha

Tea

可了

Ke le

Cola

啤酒

Pi jiu

Beer

Jiu

Liquor

红酒

Hong jiu

Red wine

牛奶

Niu nai

Milk

餐子

Can zhi

Napkin

勺子

shao zi

Fork

叉子

Cha zi

Spoon

刀子

Dao zi

Knife

饭店

Fan dian

Restaurant

酒吧

Jiu ba

Bar

菜单

Cai dan

Menu

 酒店

 Jiu dian

Hotel

 酒店房间

 Jiu dian fang jian

Hotel room

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs 

Unlike, European languages, there is no verb declension.  Thus, shi, for example, denotes to be, is, am, are, was, etc.  The only modifiers hui in front of another verb can, sometimes, be used to denote future tense and le after a verb can be used to denote past tense.  To denote not, bu is usually used before the verb, although mei is used for some, like mei yo, or, sometimes, for emphatic no, like mei shi.

Shi

To be

Yao

Want

Yo

Have

Mai

Buy

Mai

Sell

喜欢

Xi huan

Like

Hui

Can

Shuo

Speak (say)

告诉

Gao su

Tell

需要

Xu yao

Need

Ku

Cry

Da

Hit

散步

San bu

Walk

跑步

Pao bu

Run

Qu

Go

Lai Come

回来

Hui lai

Return

Dao

Arrive

去睡觉

Qu shui jiao

Go to bed

站起来

Zhan qi lai

Stand up

坐下

Zuo xia

Sit down

进去

Jin qu

Enter

应该

Ying gai

Should

 

 

 

Pleasantries

 

 

你好 

Ni hao        

Traditional greeting meaning, literally, meaning you good.

你好吗

Ni hao ma

How are you?  (This is only used with people that you know well.)

早上好

Zhao shang hao

Good morning.

下午好

Xiawu hao

Good afternoon.

晚上

Wan shang hao

Good evening

晚安

Wanan

Good night (night, safe).

对不起

Dui bu qi

Excuse me.

谢谢

Xie xie

Thanks.

不用谢

不客气

Bu yong xie;

Bu ke qi

Youre welcome (no need thank;

No courtesy

没问题

Mei wen ti

No problem

没关系

Mei guan xi

Never mind.

 

 

 

Important questions

请问

Qing wen

Can you tell me, please, (please, tell) ?

多少钱

Duo shao qian

How much (money)?

 在哪里

... zai nali

Where is ... ?

 你叫什么名字

Nin jiao shenme mingze

What is your name? 

 

 

 

Useful phrases

听不懂

Ting, bu dong

I dont understand (hear, not understand)

我不会说中文

Wo bu hui shuo zhongwen

I cant speak Chinese

我说英文

Wo shuo yingwen

I speak English

现在几点

Xianzai ji dian

What time is it? (now, what time)

我爱你

Wo ai ni

I love you

打我电话

Da wo dianhua (telephone; "shouji": cell phone)

Call me.

 我打你电话

Wo da ni dianhua.

I'll call you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

Chinese Alphabet: A to Z

Many dictionaries of Chinese symbols build on the number of strokes contained in the symbol.  It is more intuitive to us, especially since we use pinyin, in MS applications, to write in Chinese.

What follows is a fairly complete dictionary, A to Z, of Chinese symbols with pinyin spelling and the basic meaning of the symbol.  There will be different symbols, at least, for different prosody of a syllable.  In most cases, there are several symbols per syllable with the same prosody, and sometimes one symbol can be used for the same syllable with different prosody.  The meaning of words made up of more than one symbol can be discerned from the meaning of individual symbols. 

Symbol

Pinyin

Meaning

ā

Used before a name or family title, like ama for mom.

ă, ,  

Surprise, understanding, questioning, respectively.

āi

Surprise, anger, grief.

āi

Surprise or discontent

āi

Dust, angstrom

āi

Close, next to, near to

āi

Response to inquiry

i

Cancer

i

Pure white

i

Suffer, endure

ăi

Friendly, likable

i

Sigh

i

Love

i

Regret

i

Dim (light)

ān

Put in place, install.  Interrogative: where, what, how

ān

Saddle

ān

Ammonia

ān

Know well

ān

Hut, convent

ăn

Ammonium

n

(Law) case

n

Press, push down

n

Dim, dark, dull

n

Dim, gloomy

n

Bank, shore, coast

ng

Hold high

ng

Ancient vessel with big belly and small mouth

āo

Concave, hollow, sunken, dented

o

Engage in fierce battle

o

Boil or stew

o

Stroll, saunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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