I’m not a great student, and I’m lazy, and I’m ashamed to say it,
but I managed to survive with around just 20 phrases during my
first 18 months in China! (actually it was less than 10, but here’s 20!)
I’m not even going to try to cover the / – _ > ?! four tones here – more on that in the next post! See also my hilarious experiences requesting: ‘Mayo Wei jing! ‘No MSG’ – ‘no monosodium glutamate’ – and you’ll understand why the tones ARE important!
Survival Chinese! I managed with ten, but here’s the top twenty ‘survival Chinese’ phrases!
|Hello||你好||nǐ hǎo||nee how||you, good|
|How much?||多少钱？||duō shǎo qián||door shaow chen||many, little, money|
|Thank you!||谢谢！||xiè xiè||shyea shyea||thanks, thanks|
|Where is it?||在哪里？||zài nǎ lǐ||Tzai nar li||at, where|
|Why?||为什么?||wèi shén me||way she(n) ma||for, what|
|I would like a cup of coffee.||我想要一杯咖啡。||wǒ xiǎng yào yī bēi kā fēi||wor shan yao yi bey ca-fey||I, want, one, cup coffee|
|Too expensive!||太贵了！||tài guì le||tai gwey la||too, expensive|
|I am just looking.||我只是看看。||wǒ zhǐ shì kàn kàn||wor jusha kan kan||I, just, look, look|
|Don’t want.||不要。||bú yào||Boo yow||Don’t want|
|No, thank you.||不用，谢谢。||bú yòng, xiè xiè||Boo yao, shyea shyea||Don’t need, thanks.|
|Don’t have / Didn’t / Haven’t got.||没有||méi yǒu||ma-yo||not, have/ haven’t|
|I don’t speak Chinese.||我不会中文。||wǒ bú huì zhōng wén||Wor bu hwei jongwen||I, don’t, can, Chinese|
|I’m an English.||我是英国人。||wǒ shì yīng guó rén||Wor sher yingguo ren||I, am, England, people|
|Can I have my bill?||老板，结账！||lǎo bǎn jié zhàng||laoban jeeyeahjang||boss, check bill|
|I can speak just a little Chinese||我会一点点中文||wǒ zhǐ huì yī diǎn diǎn zhōng wén||Wor zje hway yi diendien jongwen||I, just, can, a little, Chinese|
|Let me think about it.||我想一下||wǒ xiǎng yí xià||wo xiang yi sha||I, think, a bit|
|Talk tomorrow||明天再说||míng tiān zài shuō||mingtien tzai shwor||tomorrow, again, talk|
|Wait a moment||等一下||děng yí xià||dung yishia||wait, a bit|
|Take out.||打包||dǎ bāo||da-bao||pack|
|I want a bag||我想要一个袋子||wǒ xiǎng yào yī ge dài zi||wor shang yow yeeger dai-tze||I, want, a, bag|
Barrie did 18 months on even less than these!
The Four main vowel tones in Chinese speech: An example of misuse..
In the west ‘msg’ is generally shunned – some people are adversely affected by it and others apparently not. I prefer not to consume it and so I would ask whenever eating out: “no ‘way jing‘” or ‘bu yao way jin‘ (不要味精)(prounced bu yao way jin)
But of course, my total mispronunciation of the four tones in Chinese at this point was very evident, and the restaurateur or street food vendor would look at me like I’d gone insane. Some of them would walk away shaking their heads and others would point me in the direction of the nearest clothing store.. !
I couldn’t figure out why until some months later when a friend told me I was actually asking people not to put a scarf (围巾 wei-jin) in my ‘mi fen’.. or whatever it was I was ordering to eat..