Chinese is a beautiful, unique and, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult languages in the world. The main difficulties on the way to mastering Chinese lie in writing, consisting of hieroglyphs, pronunciation and cultural characteristics of speech.
Recommendations for tourists
Once you are in China, you may notice that the Chinese do not speak much English: finding directions or asking for something important is sometimes really difficult. Therefore, before traveling to the Middle Kingdom, it will be good to learn how to pronounce basic and simple phrases in Chinese, but be careful: Chinese is complex in terms of pronunciation and consists of tones. This means that different syllables can be pronounced with different intonations or tones, which can change the meaning of the word dramatically. Before you start learning Chinese phrases with translation, you should understand the main points of pronunciation and tones.
Tones and how to pronounce them correctly
Tones inThere are only four in Chinese, and each of them is important to learn.
- First tone. A high even tone is indicated by a dash at the top of the syllable: mā. It is read as if you are taking a high note: la.
- The second tone is read as if you are asking something, with rising intonation, and is indicated by the following dash: má. Let's give a simple example: you are talking with a friend, but you did not hear the last phrase. Then you ask, "Huh? What did you say?" This is "a" in our Russian language and is pronounced like the second tone in Chinese.
- The third tone, mă, is read very deeply and is first pronounced low, then high, as if falling and then rising again.
- The fourth tone is very sharp, descending: mà. It is pronounced abruptly, with a sharply falling and breaking intonation, as if we are brushing aside someone. Quickly say "Everyone!" This is how the fourth tone sounds.
Why is it important to study tones?
Let's give a classic answer to the question: are tones really that important? Important. Many beginners do not attach much importance to pronunciation, although this is one of the most important points in learning Chinese. After all, the same simple syllable ma (ma), said in different tones, in Chinese can have radically different meanings:
- 妈 - mā - mother (first tone);
- 麻 - má - hemp (second tone);
- 马 - mă - horse (third tone);
- 骂 - mà - curse, swear, curse (fourth tone).
Chinese alphabet -pinyin
To read Chinese, you need to know what pinyin is. The pinyin system is a kind of recording of Chinese sounds, because it is still difficult to understand how a word is read from hieroglyphs. Therefore, pinyin replaces the transcription we are used to, for example, in English. Many sounds that are in Chinese are not in either Russian or English, so you should first deal with pronunciation.
But remember: it is impossible to read the transcription without first familiarizing yourself with the sounds, and even more so to learn Chinese phrases without knowing the basic rules of pronunciation. Many letters that are part of the pinyin system do not sound quite the same as in the same English, or even not at all.
Pinyin letters fall into two categories: initials and finals.
Chinese initials are consonants that usually begin a syllable. To begin with, it is worth noting that in Chinese there are such concepts as aspirated and non-aspirated initials. What is inhalation? It's a light stream of air that comes out when you say a certain letter. This aspiration is close to the sound [x] in Russian, but you should avoid the bright sound [x]. Put your palm to your mouth and try to exhale strongly: you will feel warm breath on your hand. This is how it should feel when you pronounce an aspirated initial in Chinese.
There are 22 of them in the peculiar Chinese alphabet, and now we will try to parse them using the following table.
|b||Somewhere between the sounds [p] and [b] in Russian.|
|d||Similar to the Russian sound [d], but more deaf.|
|g||A more dull sound [g] in Russian, something between [g] and [k].|
|j||When the next sound is pronounced, the tongue lies down, barely touching the lower teeth. Sounds like a soft [tz] or [dz]|
|zh||Looks like [j], but should be read as if with one sound.|
|z||More sonorous and hissing [dz]. Tongue touches front teeth.|
|p||Sound [p] breathy. It turns out something like [ph].|
|t||Sound [t] breathy - [tx].|
|k||Sound [k] with the same aspiration - [kh].|
|q||Very soft sound like [shh] is aspirated.|
|ch||When pronouncing this sound, the tongue seems to turn back to the sky, it turns out the sound [chsh] with strong aspiration.|
|c||A dull, hissing sound [ts] with strong aspiration.|
|m||Russian sound [m] with stronger pronunciation tension. The sound seems to come out.|
|Similar to the Russian sound [n], but the language here is a little raised.|
|ng||Nasal sound [n], like the ending -ing in English, only deeper.|
|x||Sounds like a hissing sound [shh].|
|sh||Tongue turns towards the sky, more hissing sound [w].|
|s||Tense sound [s].|
|l||Russian sound [l], but when pronouncing its language drops a little.|
|h||More tense Russian sound [х].|
|r||This sound is not in Russian, but it is closer to the Russian sound [zh]. At the same time, the tongue still turns to the sky, as when pronouncing the sounds sh or ch|
Chinese finals are vowels. They are single and combined (diphthongs). There are 38 finals in total. Quite a lot, right?
|Letter designation||How to pronounce|
|a||More tense Russian [а].|
|o||More intense Russian [o].|
|e||Something between the sounds [e] and [s]. When pronouncing this sound, the mouth should take such a position, as if you were going to say [o], but in fact you are saying [e].|
|ü||You won't find this sound in Russian or English. In order to reproduce this sound, you need to close your lips, as when pronouncing [yu], but pronounce [yu].|
|ang||[eng], but at the same time n - nasal sound, ng.|
|ie||Looks like a combination of [s], but it is pronounced as if together.|
|iao||[yao] or [yao]|
|iang||[yang] with a nasal sound at the end.|
|ing||Like the ending ing in English, the sound is nasal.|
|iong||Like a combination of [yong], while the sound is nasal.|
|ua||Similar to [wa], or [wa], where y is a short and deep sound.|
|uo||[wo] or [woo]|
|uai||Like the English word "why". [wow].|
|ui/uei||[way], but u is a short sound.|
|eng||[en], the sound at the end of the nasal.|
|uan||[one], y - deep.|
|un/uen||[wen], uh - short sound.|
|uang||[wang] with a nasal sound n.|
|ueng||[weng] with nasal sound n.|
|ong||[ong], sound n - nasal.|
|iong||[yong], nasal at the end.|
|üe||Close to [yue].|
|er||The tip of the tongue seems to bend back and sounds like a combination of Russian sounds [ar].|
If you want to learn Chinese or have already started, we advise you to familiarize yourself with all the points of pronunciation: this is almost the most important thing in Chinese.
Simple Chinese phrases. Greetings and farewells
If you are going to China as a tourist, it will be useful to learn the basic phrases in Chinese. Here are collected all the simplest and most necessary phrases that may come in handy during your trip.
- The easiest way - 你好 - nǐ hǎo - Hello! (Probably, many Russian people know this word, but if you were not familiar with it before, we advise you to get acquainted before your trip to China, because it is simple and universal.)
- 您好! - nín hǎo - Hello. (This is a more polite and formal way of greeting a person than the previous one.)
- 你们好 - nǐmen hǎo - Hello. (This greeting is used to say "hello" to several people at once.)
- 欢迎 - huānyíng - Welcome!
- 你好吗? - nǐ hǎo ma - How are you? How are you/are you doing? (This simple phrase can be said when you greet someone not for the first time. If you have already seen this person before, you can ask "nǐ hǎo ma?" and thereby show politeness and some interest.)
- 早安! - zǎo an! - Good morning! (Strange, but the Chinese especially like to use exactly"good morning" and "good afternoon" or "good evening" are no longer so common.)
- 再见! - zaijiàn - Goodbye! (The most famous and easiest way to say goodbye to someone.)
- 晚上见! - wǎnshàng jian! - Until the evening! (suggests meeting soon)
- 明天见! - míngtiān jian! - See you tomorrow!
- 祝你好运 - zhù nǐ hǎo yùn! - Good luck!
- 晚安 - Wǎn'ān - Good night!/Good night!
To communicate with native Chinese speakers, it is important to know words like "yes" or "no", as well as "please" and "thank you". It is these basic phrases in Chinese with pronunciation that we will analyze now.
- 是 - shì - Yes.
- 不是 - bù shì - No.
- 谢谢! - xiè xie - Thank you!
- 不用谢 - bù yòng xiè - Not at all (reply to gratitude).
- 不客气 - bù kèqì - Please! (reply to "thank you", literally translated as "feel free").
- 对不起 - duìbuqǐ - Please forgive me!
- 抱歉 - bàoqiàn - Sorry, sorry!
- 没关系 - méi guānxi - No big deal.
- 好 - hǎo - Good (As consent).
- 借过 - Jièguò - Let me pass.
Chinese phrases with translation and pronunciation:
- To introduce yourself, you need to say: 我叫 (here is your name) - Wǒ jiào - My name is (name).
- To ask the name of the interlocutor in an informal and friendly manner after having introduced themselves: 你呢? - nǐ ne? - What's your name?
- A more polite and formal way to ask a name: 怎么称呼? -Zěnme chenghu? - What should I call you?
- Another neutral and more generic way to ask for a name: 你叫什么? - nǐ jiao shénme? - What's your name?
- 很高兴! - hěn gāoxìng! - Very nice! (After meeting).
- 很高兴认识你 - hěn gāoxìng rènsh nǐ! - Nice to meet you.
- To explain to the interlocutor where you came from, you can say: 我从 (country, city) 来 - wǒ cóng ___ lái - I am from / I came from …
- 你多大了? - nǐ duō dà le? - How old are you?
- 我 (number) 岁. - I am ___ years old.
About languages: Chinese phrases with Russian translation
It is very difficult to overcome the language barrier in a foreign country. To understand what language a person speaks, you need to know the following Chinese phrases in Russian.
- 你说俄语吗? - nǐ shuō èyǔ ma? - Do you speak Russian?
- 你说英语吗? - nǐ shuō yīngyǔ ma? - Do you speak English?
- 我不说汉语 - wǒ bù shuō hànyǔ - I don't speak Chinese.
- 我说一点儿汉语 - wǒ shuō yīdiǎn er hànyǔ - I only speak a little Chinese.
- 你懂我在说什么吗? - nǐ dǒng wǒ zài shuō shénme ma? - Do you understand what I'm saying?/Do you understand me?
- 请再说一遍 - qǐng zài shuō yī biàn - Please repeat what you said.
- 我不懂 - wǒ bù dǒng - I don't understand.
Travel essential phrases
A traveler should always have a phrase book with simple phrases and at least a little knowledge of Englishlanguage in which case. In China, they do not speak English well, so in the Celestial Empire one cannot do without a translator or at least the simplest phrase book. Pronouncing Chinese phrases is very difficult and a native speaker can hardly understand you unless you study Chinese more in depth, so it's better to just show a Chinese person a certain phrase in your phrasebook or translate it using your smartphone.
- 最近的厕所在哪里? - zuìjìn de cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ? - Where is the nearest toilet?
- 我怎样可以到市里? - wǒ zěnyàng kěyǐ dào shì lǐ? - How can I get to the city?
- 我怎样可以到宾馆? - wǒ zěnyàng kěyǐ dào bīnguǎn? - How can I get to the hotel?
- 请问坐哪路公交车可以到市中心吗? - qǐngwèn zuò nǎ lù gōngjiāo chē kěyǐ dào shì zhōngxīn ma? - Which bus goes to the city center?
- 最近的地铁站在哪儿? - Where is the nearest metro station?
- 在哪儿可以稍微吃点东西? -Zài nǎ'er kěyǐ shāowéi chī diǎn dōngxī? - Where can I eat?
- 你们 有俄语菜单吗? - Nǐmen yǒu èyǔ càidān ma? - Do you have a menu in Russian?
- 卫生间在哪里? - Wèishēngjiān zài nǎlǐ? - Where is the toilet?
- 超市在哪里? - Chāoshì zai nǎlǐ? - Where is the supermarket here?
- 这个多少钱? - Zhège duōshǎo qián? - How much does it cost?
- 试衣间在哪里? - Shì yī jiān zai nǎlǐ? - Where is the fitting room?
- 这个对我来说太贵了- Zhège duì wǒ lái shuō tài guìle - It's too expensive for me.
- 我需要另一个号 - Wǒ xūyào lìng yīgè hào - Give me another size/I need another size.
- 我穿 ___ 的号 - Wǒ chuān ___ de hào - I wear ___ size.
- 请问, ___ 街路 在 哪里 - Qǐngwèn, ___ jiēlù zài nǎlǐ -Sorry, can you tell me where the street is (street name).
- 从这里到市中心远吗? - Cóng zhèlǐ dào shì zhōngxīn yuǎn ma? - How far is it from here to the city center?
- ___在哪里? - ___Zài nǎlǐ? - Where is ___?
- 我迷路了- Wǒ mílùle - I'm lost.
- 我感觉身体不舒服 - Wǒ gǎnjué shēntǐ bú shūfú - I don't feel well.
Aphorisms, wise sayings and phrases with translation
Like all languages and peoples in the world, Chinese has collected many proverbs, wise sayings and expressions over its long and rich history. Chinese culture is very distinctive, and the Chinese are not in vain considered a wise people. Below are the most beautiful phrases in Chinese.
- 十年樹木，百年樹人 - It takes decades to grow a tree, it takes a hundred years to grow a human.
- 欲速则不达 - Doing things faster will not finish things. The Chinese equivalent of the Russian proverb "Move slower - you will continue".
- 广交友，无深交 - If you are friends with everyone, then you are not close friends with anyone.
- 空穴来风未必无因 - The wind blows from an empty cave for a reason. Very similar in meaning to the Russian proverb "There is no smoke without fire".
- 善良胜过一切美貌 - Kindness conquers all beauty.
- 机不可失，时不再来 - You can't get back the time you've lost. Seize the opportunity.
- 花有重开日，人无再少年 - If a flower blooms again, one will never be young again.
- 小洞不补，大洞吃苦 - If you don't close a small hole, you'll end up with a big hole. There is a tear, there will be a hole.
- 三人一条心，黄土变成金 - If three people join together, the earth will turn into gold.
- 吃一堑，长一智 - Becomingsmarter by failing/failing.
- 只要功夫深，铁杵磨成针 - By working hard, you can turn an iron rod into a small needle. Russian equivalent: "Patience and work will grind everything."
- 冰冻三尺，非一日之寒 - Meter blocks of ice do not form in one day. Russian equivalent: "Moscow was not built right away."
- 一日之计在于晨 - Morning defines the whole day. Russian equivalent: "Morning is wiser than evening".
- 执子之手，与子偕老 - Grow old together holding hands (meaning eternal love).
- 星星之火，可以燎原 - One small spark can start a huge fire (Butterfly Effect).