20 Questions to Basic Chinese Fluency
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20 Questions to Basic Chinese Fluency

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Download this free beginner's guide to learning and mastering the basics of Chinese. ...

Download this free beginner's guide to learning and mastering the basics of Chinese.

The pdf guide is more than 60 pages of vocabulary, grammar and lessons grouped around 20 basic questions & answers that you will want to master as a beginner. You can print it out to go through on your own or participate live at: http://studymorechinese.com/

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20 Questions to Basic Chinese Fluency 20 Questions to Basic Chinese Fluency Document Transcript

  • Savvy Chat Chinese – 20 Questions to Basic Fluency 20 Questions to Basic Fluency: Guide to Basic Conversational Mandarin by Matt Sikora First Edition, 2012 Editor: Seraph Ching
  • Contact Information: http://studymorechinese.com/profile/mtska https://plus.google.com/u/0/117895081310002069781/about http://www.linkedin.com/pub/matthew-sikora/a/473/a35 Savvy Chat Chinese: 20 Questions to Basic Fluency by Matt Sikora is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
  • Savvy Chat Chinese – 20 Questions to Basic Fluency How to use this book Conversation is the heart of language learning. Talking with someone in another language develops your listening skills while giving you the speaking practice that you need. But conversing in another language can be hard to manage when you are first starting out. Savvy Chat Chinese – 20 Questions to Basic Fluency is homebase for developing your Mandarin Chinese communication skills. It is not only a guide for you, but it is also a guide for your language partner. Conversation is all about improvising within the linguistic and cultural rules of the language. This book allows you improvise with a manageable number of high frequency questions and answer and it gives your language partner a guide as to how to help you so that you can both make the most of your time. Below are some suggestions on how to use Savvy Chat Chinese – 20 Questions to Basic Fluency: 1. Read the book – Read the book all the way through. It gives you a unique perspective on the grammar at work behind the patterns and characters used in the questions and answers. 2. Personalize the book – Take some time to personalize the questions and answers in this book with your own information. If someone asks you one of these questions it is important for you to be able to come up with a response with your own information. Write out your answers (or your likely answers) to each of the 20 questions and keep that list handy. 3. Chat – Whether you are face to face or texting - communicating with real people is still the best way to learn a language. You need to use the questions and answers in this book as often as you can. You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, you absolutely have to make mistakes in order to learn languages. No one, native speaker or foreigner, young or old, has ever learned Mandarin without going through the same thing that you are going through right now. If you have a language partner, let the person know that you are focusing on these 20 questions and answers and give the person a copy of them so he or she can help you. You will be able to make the most of your time if both of you are using these questions and answers in your conversations.
  • Enriching your studies The fastest way to learn Mandarin is to go live where Mandarin is spoken for a year or more. Be sure to only use Mandarin and stay away from anyone that speaks to you in any other language. If you are in a position in your life to do this, stop reading right now and get going. You won’t regret it. But chances are that your learning experience has been and will be a bit more fragmented than what was described above. This book is great for learning how to start communicating with people in Mandarin, but it is not enough. You need to immerse yourself in the language as much as you can and no book can ever take the place of living your life in the Chinese language and culture. There are two simple rules for learning languages that you should try to keep in mind: 1. There is no substitute for repetition. 2. Never let yourself get bored. You can’t possibly use the 20 questions and answers in this book too much. They make up the basis of daily conversation and even after you have mastered them you will still use them all the time. But if the only thing you do is use these 20 questions and answers you’ll probably become bored with it and lose your motivation before you master them. Be sure to seek out things that interest you and allow yourself to get distracted every so often. Follow your bliss and you’ll be a much happier Mandarin learner. Come back to the 20 Questions to Basic Fluency whenever you need them, but don’t put on the blinders to what else is out there. Happy chatting! Background Savvy Chat Chinese – 20 Questions to Basic Fluency was developed and written as a communication guide for Mandarin language learners who are ready to put their language skills to use. The questions cover some of the most high frequency grammar patterns, vocabulary and
  • communication situations that you will need to know at the basic level. This book is designed to guide your communication skills to the Novice-High Proficiency Level on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. (ACTFL – American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages). The ACFTL Novice-High Proficiency Level roughly correlates to the A2 CEFR Proficiency Level (CEFR – Common European Framework of Reference - for Languages). http://actflproficiencyguidelines2012.org/speaking In addition to the academic research has gone in to this book, the questions and answers have also been informally field tested in real communication situations and reviewed by native speakers. Thanks I would like recognize the Study More Chinese community of users for all their input and support on the 20 Questions to Basic Fluency blog. I would also like to thank my editor, Seraph Ching. Her insight and eye for detail made this book possible.
  • Q&A Index Question Answer 1. Name 你叫什么名字? 我叫马特. 你呢? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? Wǒ jiào mǎtè. Nǐ ne? 2. Origin 你是哪国人? 我是美国人. 你呢? Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? Wǒ shì měiguó rén. Nǐ ne? 3. Profession 你做什么工作? 我是老师. 你呢? Nǐ zuò shénme gōngzuò? Wǒ shì lǎoshī. Nǐ ne? 4. Free time 你空余时间喜欢做什么? 我喜欢学中文。 Nǐ kòngyú shíjiān xǐhuan zuò shénme? Wǒ xǐhuan xué zhōngwén. 5. Family 你家有几个人? 我家有四个人. Nǐ jiā yǒu jǐ gè rén? Wǒ jiā yǒu sì gè rén. 6. Present 你在做什么? 我在看电视。 Nǐ zài zuò shénme? Wǒ zài kàn diànshì. 7. Past 你昨天做了什么? 我昨天吃了中国菜。 Nǐ zuótiān zuò le shénme? Wǒ zuótiān chīle zhōngguó cài. 8. Future 你明天要做什么? 我明天要去博物馆。 Nǐ míngtiān yào zuò shénme? Wǒ míngtiān yào qù bówùguǎn. 9. Where 厕所在哪儿? 在那里。 Cèsoǔ zài nǎ'er? Zài nàlǐ. 10. Plans 你想做什么? 我想吃饭。 Nǐ xiǎng zuò shénme? Wǒ xiǎng chīfàn. 11. Have 你有没有叉子? 没有。 Nǐ yǒu méiyǒu chāzi? Méiyǒu. 12. How much 多少钱? 七块九毛九分钱。
  • Duōshǎo qián? qī kuài jiǔ máo jiǔ fēn qián 13. Time 演出几点开始? 七点半。 Yǎnchū jǐ diǎn kāishǐ? Qī diǎn bàn. 14. Date 你的生日是几月几号? 我的生日是十一月二十七号。 Nǐ de shēngrì shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào? Wǒ de shēngrì shì shí yī yuè èrshíqī hào. 15. This? 这是什么? 这是豆腐。 Zhè shì shénme? Zhè shì dòufu. 16. What’s up? 你最近怎么样? 我很好。谢谢。你呢? Nǐ zuìjìn zěnmeyàng? Wǒ hěn hǎo. Xiè xie. Nǐ ne? 17. Looks 她长什么样? 她很漂亮. Tā zhǎng shénme yàng? Tā hěn piàoliang. 18. Personality 她人怎么样? 她很友好. Tā rén zěnmeyàng? Tā hěn yǒuhǎo. 19. Opinion 这部电影怎么样? 我觉得很有意思. Zhè bù diànyǐng zěnmeyàng? Wǒ juéde hěn yǒu yìsi. 20. How to say "Fortune cookie"中文怎么说? 幸运饼干. "Forture cookie" zhōngwén zěnme shuō? xìngyùn bǐnggān. *Replace the underlined words with your information.
  • What is your name? Fill-in: 我叫 马特。 Fill your name in the blank. The Chinese way of naming children is quite different from what we know in the West. First names are created rather than picked from a list or passed down. A typical first name is made up of two characters, which is pronounced as two syllables, and they tend to carry some meaning. This is kind of similar to a Native American way of naming children, for example: Sitting Bull. There are thousands of characters to chose from so first names tend to be unique and it isn’t common to find someone with the same first name (same two characters) as some one else. So there is no real list of most common Chinese first names. Last names are a different story. The Chinese present themselves with their last names, or family names, first. There really aren’t all that many different last names in China – about 100 or so are common. Here is a list of the top 10: Question       你叫什么名字?  Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? What is your name?   Answer     我叫马特. 你呢?  Wǒ jiào mǎtè. Nǐ ne? My name is Matt. And you? Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 叫 (jiào) call 什么 (shénme) what 名字 (míngzi) name  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 叫 (jiào) call 马特 (mǎtè) Matt 你呢 (nǐ ne) you (particle)    Question  #1   Name  
  • 1. 李 Lǐ 2. 王 Wáng 3. 张 Zhāng 4. 刘 Liú 5. 陈 Chén 6. 杨 Yáng 7. 赵 Zhào 8. 黄 Huáng 9. 周 Zhōu 10. 吴 Wú (For a list of the top 100 Chinese surnames check out http://www.sinosplice.com/learn- chinese/chinese-vocabulary-lists/the-top-100-chinese-surnames) There are several ways to ask someone’s name in Chinese, but we’ll be taking a look at most basic and most common. Let’s check out at the question first. The word choice and word order in Chinese doesn’t exactly match up with English. It starts out with 你(nǐ) which means “you.” Chinese uses the verb 叫(jiào), to call, where English uses the verb “is.” You’ll be happy to know that there is no verb conjugation in Chinese! So 叫(jiào) never gets changed because of person, number or even time reference (past, present future.) The question word 什么 (shénme) means “what” and comes after the verb. The word 名字(míngzi) means “name.” So you end up with a literal translation of, “You call what name?” In general, it’s a bad idea to translate literally from English to Chinese. But translating from Chinese to English can be helpful to understand the Chinese way of thinking. So if thinking “You call what name?” helps you remember the Chinese, then use it. Now let’s take a look at the answer. Notice the sentence structure in the answer hasn’t change much from the question. You simply switch 你(nǐ) for 我 (wǒ), which means “I” or “my,” and replace 什么名字(shénme míngzi) with your name. We have one more piece of language to cover. The 你呢(Nǐ ne) is simply asking, “And you?” The 呢(ne) has no real meaning in this sentence. Just think of it as a question mark that needs to be pronounced. (We do something similar in English when we put “do” in front of some questions, for example, “Do you like studying Chinese?” You could probably leave the “do” out when speaking as long as your voice goes up at the end of the sentence.)
  • You might be wondering how to translate your name into Chinese. One of the better lists out there is this one on the site http://www.chinese-tools.com/names Now you’re ready to meet people. Remember that the structure of the question and answer are exactly the same and that will help you when you get into a conversation – and conversation is what you want. You need to use this in order to remember it. The more you use it, the better you’ll get. Happy chatting!
  • Where are you from? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我是 美国人。 你呢? 1. 加拿大(Jiā’nádà) Canada 2. 英国(Yīngguó) England 3. 爱尔兰(Ài’ěrlán) Ireland 4. 苏格兰 (Sūgélán) Scotland 5. 澳大利亚(Àodàlìyà) Australia 6. 新加坡(Xīnjiāpō) Singapore 7. 墨西哥(Mòxīgē) Mexico 8. 阿根廷(Āgēntíng) Argentina 9. 巴西(Bāxī) Brazil 10. 俄罗斯(Éluósī) Russia Question       你是哪国人?  Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? Where are you from   Answer     我是美国人. 你呢?  Wǒ shì měiguó rén. Nǐ ne? I am American. And you? Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 是 (shì) are 哪国 (nǎ guó) which country 人 (rén) person  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 是 (shì) am 美国 (měiguó) American 你呢 (nǐ ne) you (particle)    Question  #2   Origin  
  • There are several ways to ask where someone is from in Chinese. This question is asking about nationality, or “which country” a person is from. This is a common question, the structure is simple to understand, and it gives you an opportunity to become familiar with nationalities. Let’s take a look at the structure. Here we are literally asking, “You are which country person?” Although this literal translation sounds awkward in English, it is easy to see how the words match up. This question uses the verb 是(shì), which is the verb “to be.” Notice that the verb doesn’t get conjugated, or changed. This is a sleek feature of Chinese – verbs never change forms! The question word, 哪(nǎ), means, “which.” Check out how it comes in the middle of the sentence, after the subject and the verb. This is a different from English where we would start out the question with, “Which…” or “Where…” Fortunately there is no change in sentence structure from the question to the answer. You simply switch 你(nǐ) for 我 (wǒ) and replace 哪国 (nǎ guó ) with your nationality. We have one more piece of language to cover. The 你呢(Nǐ ne) is simply asking, “and you?” The 呢 (ne) has no real meaning in this sentence. Just think of it as a question mark that needs to be pronounced. (We do something similar in English when we put “do” in front of some questions, for example, “Do you like studying Chinese?” You could probably leave the “do” out when speaking as long as your voice goes up at the end of the sentence.) Once again the question and the answer have the same structure and there is no cumbersome conjugation or flip-flopping word order to worry about. It’s very logical and straightforward. If you ask this question in the West, you might be surprised to find that a lot of people who speak Chinese are not from China. There is a large population of Taiwanese abroad. Chinese is also spoken in Singapore. There are also many people in Malaysia and other East Asian countries who know at least some Mandarin. So be sure to practice your new conversation skills out in the wild whenever you get a chance. You need to use this in order to remember it. The more you use it, the better you’ll get. Happy chatting!
  • What do you do for a living? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我是 老师。 你呢? 1. 商人(shāngrén) business person 2. 老师(lǎoshī) teacher 3. 学生(xuéshēng) student 4. 记者(jìzhě) reporter 5. 医生(yīshēng) doctor 6. 销售(xiāoshòu) sales/marketing 7. 科学家(kēxuéjiā) scientist 8. 技术人员(jìshù rényuán) tech staff 9. 工程师(gōngchéngshī) engineer 10. 银行家(yínhángjiā) banker 11. 退休(tuìxiū) retired Question       你做什么工作?  Nǐ zuò shénme gōngzuò? What do you do for a living?   Answer     我是老师. 你呢?  Wǒ shì lǎoshī. Nǐ ne? I am a teacher. And you? Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 做 (zuò ) do 什么 (shénme) what 工作 (gōngzuò) work/job  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 是 (shì) am 老师 (lǎoshī) teacher 你呢 (nǐ ne) you (particle)    Question  #3   Professions  
  • There are several ways to ask what someone does in Chinese. This question is asking about a person’s job. Let’s take a look at the structure. Here we are literally asking, “You do what work?” Although the word order is a little different, this matches up pretty well with English. This question uses the verb 做(zuò) which is the verb “to do.” Notice that the verb doesn’t get conjugated, or changed. This is a sleek feature of Chinese – verbs never change forms! The question word, 什么(shénme), means, “what.” Check out how it comes in the middle of the sentence, after the subject and the verb. This is different from English. We would start out the question with “What…” Unlike the previous questions and answers, the answer here uses a different verb from the question. Let’s take a look at why this happens. The answer literally translates to “I am teacher.” Notice the answer doesn’t say, “a teacher.” This is because Chinese doesn’t use articles, (the, a, an). So with the exception of “a” the Chinese here mirrors the English exactly. The word 我(wǒ) means “I” and the verb 是(shì) means “is.” This change from the verb 做(zuò) in the question to the verb 是(shì) in the answer is exactly what happens in English, so it isn’t too confusing for us. We have one more piece of language to cover. The 你呢(Nǐ ne) is simply asking, “and you?” The 呢(ne) has no real meaning in this sentence. Just think of it as a question mark that needs to be pronounced. (We do something similar in English when we put “do” in front of some questions, for example, “Do you like studying Chinese?” You could probably leave the “do” out when speaking as long as your voice goes up at the end of the sentence.) You’ve now made it through the three most basic ways to introduce yourself in Chinese. Be sure to use these questions as often as you can with lots of different people. The more you use them the better you’ll get at starting up a conversation. Sometimes just starting a conversation is the hardest part. You’ll be surprised at how accommodating people are to help you with your language studies. But you need to make the first move! Happy chatting!
  • “What do you like to do in your free time?” Top 10 Fill-ins for: 我喜欢 学中文。 1. 唱歌(chànggē) singing 2. 跳舞 (tiàowǔ) dancing 3. 看电影 (kàn diànyǐng) watching movies 4. 看电视 (kàn diànshì) watching TV 5. 看书 (kàn shū) reading books 6. 听音乐 (tīng yīnyuè) listening to music 7. 上网 (shàngwǎng) going online 8. 聊天 (liáotiān) chatting 9. 拍照 (pāizhào) photography 10. 旅游 (lǚyóu ) traveling Question       你空余时间喜欢做什么?  Nǐ kòngyú shíjiān xǐhuan zuò shénme? What do you like to do in your free time?   Answer   我喜欢学中文。 Wǒ xǐhuan xué zhōngwén. I like to study Chinese. Question  De.initions   你 (nǐ) you 空余 (kòngyú) free 时间 (shíjiān) time 喜欢 (xǐhuan) like 做 (zuò) do 什么 (shénme) what Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 喜欢 (xǐhuan) like 学 (xué) study 中文 (zhōngwén) Chinese         Question  #4   Free  Time  
  • There are several ways to ask what someone likes to do in Chinese, but this question uses vocabulary and grammar patterns that will help you with other high frequency questions. Let’s look at the question first. The word order in Chinese doesn’t match up with English. The question word “what”, 什么 (shénme), is at the end of the question instead of at the beginning. “You”, 你(nǐ), is at the beginning instead of in the middle. “Free time” 空余时间 (kòngyú shíjiān) is in the middle instead of at the end. Thankfully “Like” 喜欢, (xǐhuan), and “do” 做 (zuò) are just about where we would put them in English. If you translated this question literally, you’d come up with something like, “You free time like do what?” If you compare this to the English “What do you like to do in your free time?” you’ll notice some things are missing in the Chinese question. Can you find the differences? Here they are highlighted: “What do you like to do in your free time?” In Chinese, we don’t need to use “do” when asking a question. We’ve already covered that Chinese doesn’t conjugate, or change the form of verbs but it also doesn’t use infinitives, or “to + verb.” We also don’t need to use the word “in.” Finally, Chinese doesn’t change the form of a pronoun to make it possessive. There is a way to make possessive pronouns like, “my” and “your” but it isn’t used in this question and it isn’t necessary for you to know right now. This question is your first glimpse at how different Chinese can be from English. Luckily, the answer matches up a lot better for us. Let’s take a look. Notice that the word order in the answer matches exactly with English: “I like study Chinese.” The only thing that is missing is the “to” from “to study” but as we mentioned before, Chinese verbs don’t need to be added to, changed or conjugated. They work just fine as they are. At this point you may be wondering why “like” and “Chinese” have to be two characters while “I” and “you” only use one character. Sometimes this is easy to explain, as in the case of 中文 (zhōngwén). Here 中 (zhōng) means “China” and 文 (wén) means “language.” So it is easy for us to see that “China language” means “Chinese.” But sometimes the two character word isn’t as easy to explain, as in 喜欢(xǐhuan). Separately, both characters have similar meanings of “happy” and “joyous.” But together they mean “to like.” At this point it is best to try to remember the characters as a pair and not worry about what they mean separately. Trying to study the individual characters of words would be like trying to learn English by studying the Latin and Greek roots right off the bat. At this point, it will probably only slow you down in your studies. People love to talk about their hobbies. Most people can find at least one activity from the list above that they like to do, so this is an easy way to find something in common with someone else
  • and continue your conversation - and you need to continue talking! These questions are not something to read and think about in isolation. You need to use them. The more you practice the better you’ll get. Happy chatting!
  • How many people are in your family? Top Fill-in’s for: 我家有 四 个人. To tell how many people are in your family, simply replace 四 with the appropriate number: 一,两, 三, 四,五, 六, 七, 八, 九。 (yī, liǎng, sān, sì, wǔ, liù, qī, bā, jiǔ.) *Note: If you are counting (as in 1, 2, 3, 4…) then the number two is 二(èr). Talking about how many people are in your family is wonderfully easy in Chinese. It’s slightly different than how we might ask it in English, but once again the question and answer follow the same pattern so there is no need for mental acrobatics when you hear the question. You simply need to fill in the blanks with your information. Let’s get started with the question. Question       你家有几个人?  Nǐ jiā yǒu jǐ gè rén?  How  many  people  are  in  your    family?   Answer     我家有四个人.  Wǒ jiā yǒu sì gè rén.    My  family  has  four  people.   Question  De.initions      你 (nǐ) you  家 (jiā) home  有 (yǒu) has  几 (jǐ) how many  个 (ge) (Mearure Word)  人 (rén) people  Answer  De.initions   我 (wǒ) I (my)  家 (jiā) home  有 (yǒu) has  四 (sì) four  个 (ge) (Measure Word)  人 (rén) people    Question  #5   Family  
  • The question begins with the word 你(nǐ) which, by now, you know means “you.” The next word, 家(jiā) can mean “home” “household” or “family.” The word 有(yǒu) is the verb “to have.” Remember, there is no verb conjugation in Chinese so there is no need to change the verb from question to answer. The word 几(jǐ) means “how many” but 几(jǐ) is a little more flexible than its English equivalent. You may hear it used for asking about phone numbers and other kinds of numbered info. For now just know that 几(jǐ) always asks about a number when used in a question. Next is the measure word 个(gè). Measure words are used when you are pointing out an object (this pen, that pen) or when you are counting objects (1 pen, 2 pens, 3 pens). We have measure words in English too: a pair of pants, a flock of geese, a cup of coffee. But there are lots more in Chinese and they are used more often. In some places in China, typically the North, 个(gè) is replaced by 口(kǒu) in this question, but the words are interchangeable in this context and do not change the meaning. The final word is 人(rén) which means people. We get a nice, clean literal translation of, “Your family has how many people?” Let’s move on to the answer. The answer simply replaces the pronoun 你(nǐ) with 我(wǒ), which means “I” or “my” and replaces the 几(jǐ) with a number of people. Our translation for the answer is, “My family has four people.” Many times in Chinese the answer follows the same pattern as the question, so it makes it relatively easy to just listen and parrot back the answer by substituting in your info. You may also want to talk about who exactly is in your family. Unfortunately, telling about your family members can be a little more complicated in Chinese than it is in other languages. This stems from Confucius philosophy and can be a little hard to grasp as a Westerner. Basically, every person that you are related to has a unique title that is relative to his or her relationship to you. Maternal and paternal relatives have different titles so there are two different titles for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. These titles very often take the place of the person’s name. So where we might say “uncle Steve” the Chinese would say something that would translate to “dad’s older brother ‘uncle’” and leave out the “Steve” altogether. It is the Confucius way of keeping order and letting every one know where his place is. It isn’t very useful as a Westerner because you most likely won’t need to use these title with your family members so we won’t go into a full list of vocabulary here. Below are some common names for family members that should be enough for you to express yourself clearly. 1. 丈夫(Zhàngfu) husband 2. 太太(Tàitai) wife 3. 爸爸(Bàba) father
  • 4. 妈妈(Māma) mother 5. 儿子(Érzi) son 6. 女儿(Nǚ'ér) daughter 7. 哥哥(Gēge) elder brother 8. 弟弟(Dìdi) younger brother 9. 姐姐(Jiějie) elder sister 10. 妹妹(Mèimei) younger sister 11. 男朋友(Nán péngyǒu) boyfriend 12. 女朋友(Nǚ péngyǒu) girlfriend Here are some other ways to answer if you are single or if you are in a relationship. 我结婚了。(Wǒ jiéhūnle.) I’m married 我离婚了。(Wǒ líhūnle.) I’m divorced. 我在恋爱中。(Wǒ zài liàn'ài zhōng.) I’m in a relationship. 我是单身。(Wǒ shì dānshēn.) I’m single. Obviously we are getting a little more personal with this question. Although the Chinese wouldn’t see this question as too much of an intrusion, it is also something that might not be appropriate right off the bat. It depends on the situation. For example, if you meet a mother at a park with her children, this question would be a great one to ask. But this probably wouldn’t be all that appropriate when first meeting a potential client or business partner. That being said, you need to use this to get good at it and this gives you a great way to practice and listen for simple numbers, so try it out when the situation is right. Happy chatting!
  • What are you doing? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我在 看电视。 1. 工作(gōngzuò) working 2. 学习(xuéxí) studying 3. 休息(xiūxi) resting 4. 上网(shàngwǎng) online 5. 路上(lùshang) on the road/way 6. 吃饭(chīfàn) eating 7. 上街(shàngjiē) shopping 8. 整理房间(zhěnglǐ fángjiān) cleaning up a room/house 9. 准备(zhǔnbèi) getting ready 10. 等你(děng nǐ ) waiting for you Questions 6, 7 and 8 all have to do with asking about the present, past and future respectively. If you have had any experience with learning other foreign languages, especially European languages, this is where we would start talking about verb conjugation. Conjugation is also   Question       你在做什么?  Nǐ zài zuò shénme? What are you doing? Answer 我在看电视。 Wǒ zài kàn diànshì. I'm wathing TV. Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 在 (zài) are 做 (zuò) doing 什么 (shénme) what               Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 在 (zài) am 看 (kàn) watching  电视 (diànshì) TV     Question  #6   What  are  you  doing?  
  • when a lot of people decide that learning a Romance language isn’t quite as romantic as they had envisioned - but not so with Mandarin. Words, or characters, don’t ever get changed in Chinese. That means there is no verb conjugation, agreement, declensions, etc. There are ways to make verbs reflect the past, present and future, but you won’t have to worry about all the linguistic acrobatics that are normally associated with verb conjugation. Mandarin is a very clean and compact language at this level so enjoy! Let’s take a look at the question. Before we start the explanation, you should know that there are other ways to ask “What are you doing?” so don’t let that surprise you. This question however, is especially useful because this pattern and these particular words are very high frequency so they will give you a lot of opportunities to make connections and reinforce your learning. First, the word order of this question is different from the English, but aside from the question word “what” coming at the end of the sentence, it isn’t too tough. As always, we begin with the word 你(nǐ) which means “you.” Then we move on to one of the most high frequency words in Chinese, 在 (zài). This word is pretty flexible and it can also be combined with other characters to make up new words. If you look it up you’ll see it means “to exist” or “to be” or “to be located” but it’s probably best to just translate it for how it is used in a particular context. The word 在 (zài) in this context tells you that you are in the present continuous tense, or in simpler terms, it acts as the “-ing” that we put on the end of our verbs in English. So in our examples above, 在做 (zài zuò ) means “doing” or “are doing.” The 什么(shénme) on the end simply means “what.” So altogether our literal translation is, “You are doing what?” This translation might sound a bit accusative to us, but the Chinese question has no edge to it. It is just an inquiry about what you’re up to. Let’s check out the answer. We replace 你(nǐ) with 我(wǒ) to say “I” and then 在看 (zài kàn ) means “am watching.” The characters 电视 (diànshì) mean television. It’s kind of interesting to look at these separately. The character 电(diàn) means “electric” or “electricity” and 视(shì) means “to look at.” It’s funny to think of watching TV as “looking at electricity” but, indeed, it’s true. So our literal translation is “I am watching TV.” As you can see, there isn’t too much to trip you up with this answer. You might be asking yourself what to do if you just want to dodge this question. Maybe you aren’t doing anything in particular or perhaps you just don’t know what to say. Anyway, let’s face it, if you ask someone “What are you doing?” in English, the most likely response you’ll hear is, “nothing” or “not much.” So if you’d like to tell someone you have nothing to do, you can just say 没事做!(Méi shì zuò!)
  • Remember to get out and practice these questions with someone. The more you practice the better you’ll get. Happy chatting!
  • What did you do yesterday? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我昨天 吃了中国菜。 1. 工作了(gōngzuò le) worked 2. 学习了(xuéxí le) studied 3. 开会了(kāihuì le) had a meeting 4. 购物了(gòuwù le) went shopping 5. 休息了(xiūxi le) rested 6. 上网了(shàngwǎng le) was on line 7. 逛街了(guàngjiē le) walked around 8. 吃了(chī le…) ate… 9. 去了(qù le…) went to… 市区 公园 饭店 商店 银行 酒吧 博物馆 (shìqū) (gōngyuán) (fàndiàn) (shāngdiàn) (yínháng) (jiǔbā) (bówùgǔan) downtown park restaurant store bank bar museum   Question       你昨天做了什么?  Nǐ zuótiān zuò le shénme? What did you do yesterday?  Answer 我昨天吃了中国菜。  Wǒ zuótiān chīle zhōngguó cài. Yesterday I ate Chinese food. Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 昨天 (zúotiān) yesterday 做了 (zuò le) did 什么 (shénme) what               Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 昨天 (zúotiān) yesterday 吃了 (chī le) ate  中国 (zhōng gúo) Chinese  菜 (cài) food     Question  #7   What  did  you  do   yesterday?  
  • 10. 看了(kàn le…) watched/read/saw…. 电视 电影 书 报纸 杂志 演出 朋友 (diànshì) (diànyǐng) (shū) (bàozhǐ) (zázhì) (yǎnchū) (péngyou) TV movie book newspaper magazine show friend Talking about what you did in the past is simple. In fact, at times it can be too simple for English speakers. Chinese relies on context clues much more than English does when it comes to navigating verb tenses. Since verbs do not get conjugated to the past, present or future, it is sometimes hard for English speakers to know exactly when an action took place. Indeed, in some cases there is no difference at all and the sentence has to be heard in context to know when the action occurred. This is extremely flexible compared to English verb tense and it can make a person feel a wee bit uncomfortable when trying to get used to Chinese. But not to worry - the word 了(le) is a quick remedy to the seasickness that may accompany the fluid Chinese verb tenses. Let’s check out the question. This question starts out with 你(nǐ) and moves on to the time marker 昨天(zuótiān) which means “yesterday.” This is the first context clue that we are talking about the past. Time markers like; “yesterday” “today” “tomorrow” are often the only thing that tell the listener when the action occurred. The next word is 做(zuò) which means “do.” Now we have 了(le). The word 了(le) has no meaning by itself. It can be used with verbs as well as adjectives and it indicates change or completion. It isn’t specific to the past tense though. You’ll hear it referring to the future as well. But for now we are just using it with verbs and it will indicate that the action has been completed in the past. So we would translate 做了(zuò le) as “did.” The final part of the question has the question word 什么(shénme) which means “what.” The literal translation of the question is, “You yesterday did what?” Let’s move on to the answer. The structure of the answer is the same as the question. We just need to replace a few parts of the question with our information. We start out by exchanging 你(nǐ) for 我(wǒ). Next, 做(zuò) gets replaced with 吃(chī) which means “eat.” Notice that the verb 吃(chī) doesn't change, or get conjugated. Adding 了(le) behind the verb in this context signifies that the action is completed. So 吃了(chīle) translates to "ate" in this sentence. As we mentioned above, the past tense can be flexible in Chinese, but for now, just follow this pattern:
  • SUBJECT + TIME MARKER + VERB + 了 + OBJECT For example: I + yesterday + eat + 了+ Chinese food. Now let’s go back and check out numbers 9 and 10 from the vocabulary list above for a few moments. When you are first learning a language it is hard to express exactly what you want to say in the way you would like to say it. Sometimes you have to just simplify your thoughts to fit your ability level. So you might want to say something like, “I took the train downtown and hung out with my friend for a few hours.” But at this point that’s a little too complex. What you really need to get across is, “I went downtown” and “I saw my friend” : 我去了市区(Wǒ qù le shìqū.) 我看了我的朋友(Wǒ kàn le wǒ de péngyǒu). So using the verb 去了(qù le) and 看了 (kàn le) are two very easy, helpful and productive ways to tell people about what you did in the past. So whenever someone asks you about what you did in Chinese, immediately think, “Where did I go?” and “What did I see?” The 去(qù) – 看(kàn) strategy is really useful for beginners in the past, present and future as well as when you are talking about making plans, or saying what you want to do. It is one of your first steps in training you mind to think in Chinese, so be sure to use it often. More info In Chinese, the subject and the time marker can sometimes be switched, but the meaning stays the same. Here are some examples of both cases : 我昨天看了书。 Wǒ zuótiān kànle shū. Yesterday I read a book. 这周末我去了公园。 Zhè zhōumò wǒ qùle gōngyuán. I went to the park this weekend. 今天我喝了三杯咖啡。 Jīntiān wǒ hēle sān bēi kāfēi.
  • Today I drank three cups of coffee. There are some instances where 了(le) might show up in a different location in a sentence or it may not be used at all. But for now just include a time marker and put the 了(le) right after the verb in your sentence and you can be pretty sure that you are forming the past tense correctly. (It's also worth mentioning that 了(le) can sometimes refer to the future, so don't assume that 了 (le) is always used to make something past tense.) Here are some past tense time markers that you can use in this pattern: 今天 (jīntiān) today 昨天 (zuótiān) yesterday 前天 (qiántiān) the day before yesterday 大前天 (dà qiántiān) three days ago 以前 (yǐqián) before 这周末 (zhè zhōumò) this weekend 上周末 (shàng zhōumò) last weekend 这个星期 (zhège xīngqī) this week 上个星期 (shàng ge xīngqī ) last week 上上个星期 (shàng shàng ge xīngqī) week before last 这个月(zhè ge yuè ) the month 上个月(shàng ge yuè) last month 上上个月(shàng shàng ge yuè) the month before last 今年 (jīnnián) this year 去年 (qùnián) last year 前年 (qiánnián) the year before last year 大前年 (dà qiánnián) three years ago You are starting to accumulate a lot of vocabulary along with some high frequency grammar patterns. Now it’s time to get out and use the Chinese that you know. Communication is the only real way for you to know that this stuff is sticking. Be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes – it’s the only way to learn. Happy chatting!
  • What are you doing tomorrow? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我明天要去 博物馆。 1. 办公室(bàngōngshì) the office 2. 公园(gōngyuán) the park 3. 市场(shìchǎng) the market 4. 商场(shāngchǎng) the mall 5. 咖啡馆 (kāfēi guǎn) the cafe 6. 超级市场(chāojí shìchǎng) super market 7. 咖啡馆(kāfēi guǎn) the café 8. 面馆(miànguǎn) noodle shop 9. 茶馆(cháguǎn) tea house 10. 图书馆(túshū guǎn) library We’ve finally reached the future and you’ll be happy to know that it is bright. Forming the future tense in Chinese is just as easy as it was in the other tenses. As we mentioned before,   Question       你明天要做什么?  Nǐ míngtiān yào zuò shénme? What do you want to do tomorrow? Answer 我明天要去博物馆。  Wǒ míngtiān yào qù bówùguǎn. I want to go to the museum tomorrow. Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 明天 (míngtiān) tomorrow  要 (yào) want 做 (zùo) do 什么 (shénme) what               Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 明天 (míngtiān) tomorrow 要 (yào) want  去 (qù) go  博物馆 (bówùguǎn) museum     Question  #8   What  are  you  doing   tomorrow?  
  • Chinese verbs can be very flexible when it comes to time reference, so don’t be surprised to see or hear the future tense formed in different ways. Let’s take a look at the question. We start out, as always, with 你(nǐ) to say “you.” The word 明天(míngtiān) means “tomorrow.” This is a clever little word so let’s take some time to get a little more detailed. The character 明 (míng) is made up of two parts, or radicals. The one on the left is the character for “sun” and it kind of looks like an abstraction of the sun with the horizon line in the middle. The one on the right means “moon” and you can see the crescent in its curved line. Together these two parts, or radicals, mean “bright.” The character 天(tiān) means “day” so the two characters together mean “bright day” – a very optimistic way to look at “tomorrow,” don’t you think? Now here comes the future! To form the future tense simply put 要 (yào) in front of the verb. The verb 要 (yào) by itself means “want” but in this context it functions as “will” or “want to” or “going to.” If you’ve been studying Chinese for a bit you may have also noticed that 会 (huì) can be used to form the future in the same way. Either one is fine to use to form the future tense, but for now let’s just use 要 (yào) to keep things simple. The next word is 做 (zuò) which means “to do” and just like the past and present tense, 做 (zuò) doesn’t need to be changed or conjugated. The last word, 什么(shénme) means “what.” So the literal translation is “You tomorrow will do what?” Let’s check out the answer. The answer, as always, exchanges 你(nǐ) for 我(wǒ) to say “I.” We keep the 明天(míngtiān) and the 要 (yào). But then we steer you toward talking about a place you will go to by using the verb 去(qù) which means “to go.” The reason for this is because it’s fairly easy for the brain to remember concrete things, like places. You can picture it in your mind and therefore words for places tend to be easy to recall. The way to “think in Chinese” is to make your thoughts match your ability level and this is a fast and practical way to do that. Finally, you fill in the 什么 (shénme) with a place, and it looks like we’re going to the museum, 博物馆 (bówùguǎn). The literal translation for the answer is, “I tomorrow will go museum.” So you may be asking yourself, “What if I don’t want to go to the museum? What if I want to talk about what I’m going to DO (or what I want to DO) tomorrow?” If you want to talk about actions that you will do in the future, you can just replace 去博物馆 (yào qù bówùguǎn) in the answer above with any action. So say you want to see a movie tomorrow, you would say: 我明天要看电影。
  • Wǒ míngtiān yào kàn diànyǐng. If you want to GO see a movie tomorrow, you can say: 我明天要去看电影。 Wǒ míngtiān yào qù kàn diànyǐng. More Info Here are some future time expressions to fill in for the word “tomorrow” 明天(míngtiān): 今天(jīntiān) today 明天(míngtiān) tomorrow 后天(hòutiān) two days from now 大后天(dà hòutiān) three days from now 这星期(zhè xīngqī) this week 下星期(xià xīngqī) next week 下下星期(xià xià xīngqī) in two weeks 这个月(zhège yuè) this month 下个月(xià ge yuè) next month 下下个月(xià xià ge yuè) in two months 今年(jīnnián) this year 明年(míngnián) next year 后年(hòu nián) two years from now 大后年(dà hòunián) three years from now You’ve made it through the past, present and future. As you can see, time travel isn’t all that tough in Chinese. But there is no substitute for practice and repetition when it comes to learning a new language. At this point you have all the tools you need to make friends and sustain communication with someone in Chinese. If you don’t have the opportunity to practice your Chinese with someone in person, then it is probably time to look for a language partner online. Even just using IM (Instant Message) with someone can greatly improve your language skills, and almost everyone has at least a few minutes every day to text. So if you haven’t done so
  • already, make a commitment to yourself to chat using these questions with someone. You’ll be glad you did. Happy chatting!
  • Where is the bathroom? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 厕所 在哪儿? 1. 旅馆(lǚguǎn) hotel 2. 银行(yínháng) bank 3. 邮局(yóujú ) post office 4. 火车站(huǒchē zhàn) train station 5. 地铁站(dìtiě zhàn) metro station 6. 停车场(tíngchē chǎng) parking lot 7. 自动取款机 (zìdòng qǔkuǎn jī) the ATM 8. 机场(jīchǎng) the airport 9. 药店(yàodiàn) the pharmacy 10. 饭店(fàndiàn) restaurant Question       厕所在哪儿?  Cèsuǒ zài nǎ'er? Where is the bathroom?   Answer     在那里。  Zài nàlǐ. It's there. Question Definitions 厕所 (cèsuǒ) toilet 在 (zài) is 哪儿 (nǎ'er) where  Answer  De.initions   在 (zài) is 那里 (nàlǐ) there   Question  #9   Where  is...?  
  • Asking where a place it is Chinese is very simple so let’s get right into it. All you need to do is start out your question with the place you want to know about - in this case, 厕所 (cèsuǒ). Notice that we use the Chinese word “toilet” instead of “bathroom” in this question. Although using the word “toilet” may seem a little inappropriate in this question in parts of the English- speaking world, it isn’t at all inappropriate in Chinese. Next, the verb 在(zài) means “is.” (*Note: you may remember that 是(shì) also means “is” as in, 我是美国人(Wǒ shì měiguó rén) “I am American.” The verb 在(zài) is used to express“to be” when you want to know where something is.) Finally, use 哪儿(nǎ’er). It’s backward from the English word order but still very easy to understand. The beauty of this pattern is that you use it for people, places, and things so it’s very high frequency and very flexible. The answer is even easier. Let’s take a look. To respond you once again use the verb 在(zài). But here you can leave out the place that you asked about in the question. We do the same in English too. Once you’ve established that “the bathroom” is the topic in question, there is no need to repeat it in the answer. Can you say it again? Sure thing. Place 厕所 (cèsuǒ) in front of 在(zài) and you’re good to go. The end of the sentence is where you find the information about where the place is. In our answer we have 那 里(nàlǐ) which means “there.” Obviously there could be a lot of information about directions to the place you are asking about so 那里(nàlǐ) is just one of many options. Notice that the word order in the answer matches with the English exactly, “It’s there.” More Info You may have noticed that 哪儿(nǎ’er) in the question and 那里(nàlǐ) in the answer have a similar pronunciation and that the characters almost look identical. The little 口 radical in front of 哪儿(nǎ’er) signifies that it is a question and it means “which.” If 口 isn’t in there, then it isn’t a question and it means, “that.” Another important point is that 儿(er) and 里(lǐ) are interchangeable in this context. You can use either one with 哪(nǎ) and 那(nà) and be perfectly correct. With this question we are starting to get a little more practical about our communication skills. If you don’t have an opportunity to speak to anyone in person, asking “Where is…” might seem to be difficult practice. But you can use this question with an online language partner too. You might ask the person, 你在哪里?(Nǐ zài nǎlǐ?), “Where are you?” This could mean, “Hey, are you there?” or you might also be wondering “Are you at home? at the library? at a café?” There are lots of ways to work in some of the practical questions if you get creative. But most importantly, make sure you are using this with someone – anyone! The only way to get good at it is to practice it. Happy chatting!
  • What do you want to do? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我想 吃饭。 1. 去市区(qù shìqū) go downtown 2. 逛逛(guàngguang) walk around, take a stroll 3. 购物 (gòuwù) go shopping 4. 看电影(kàn diànyǐng) see a movie 5. 看演出(kàn yǎnchū) see a show 6. K 歌(K gē) sing karaoke 7. 跳舞(tiàowǔ) go dancing 8. 去咖啡馆(qù kāfēi guǎn) go to a cafe 9. 去酒吧(qù jiǔbā) go to a bar 10. 休息(xiūxí) rest Making plans to do something in Chinese is pretty simple. The nice thing about the structure of this question is that it opens up the door to some other high frequency questions. We’ll check Question       你想做什么?  Nǐ xiǎng zuò shénme? What do you want to do?   Answer     我想吃饭。  Wǒ xiǎng chīfàn. I want to eat. Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 想 (xiǎng) want 做 (zuò) do  什么 (shénme) what  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 想 (xiǎng) want 吃饭 (chīfàn) eat   Question  #10   Making  plans  
  • those out later, but right now let’s take a look at the question. The Chinese and the English match up nicely here except for the placement of the question word “what.” The English question puts “what” at the beginning of the sentence but the Chinese question places 什么 (shénme) at the end of the sentence. We start out with 你(nǐ) which means “you.” The verb 想 (xiǎng) means “want” but here it carries a more polite connotation, so we could also translate it as “would like.” The word 做(zuò) means “do.” The Chinese is actually a bit less complicated because it leaves out the “do” that English uses in this question: “What do you want to do?” As always, there is no verb changing, or conjugation, in any way. So word for word we end up with a literal translation of, "You want do what?" Pretty straight forward, so let’s move on to the answer. As you can see, the answer is beautifully simple and matches up with the English meaning and word order exactly. The only tricky part of this is 吃饭(chīfàn) which means "eat" because it is two characters. The character 吃(chī) means "eat" and 饭(fàn) means “rice.” But in this context their combined meaning is simply "eat" or “to have a meal.” So the literal translation is, "I want eat." You should know that there are some variations of the question and answer. Let’s move on to them below. More Info There are some other ways to ask, “What do you want to do?” in Chinese. Specifically, 想(xiǎng) and 做(zuò) can be replaced with other words. First, the verb 要(yào) can replace 想 (xiǎng). What’s the difference? In this context they both mean “want” but 想(xiǎng) softens the question or request. It would be more like saying “I would like” instead of “I want.” In Chinese culture it is always better to be a bit too polite instead of being slightly too familiar or informal, so as a beginner it is better to use 想(xiǎng). That being said, you will definitely hear 要(yào) replacing 想(xiǎng) in this context and it will be completely appropriate and not rude at all. Just be aware of the difference and use 想(xiǎng) when in doubt. Next, the verb 做(zuò) can be replaced by 干(gàn). Here there is no real difference. Either one gives you the same meaning in this context so feel free to use them interchangeably here. It should also be noted in this section that 想(xiǎng) CANNOT be used to say you want something. You can only use 想(xiǎng) to ask and say you want to DO something. In other words, when you use 想(xiǎng) to mean “want” it has to be followed by a VERB. How do you say you want SOMETHING? You use 要(yào)! But in Chinese, you will be likely to find yourself in a situation where using 想(xiǎng) + VERB will be very natural and you won’t have to use 要(yào) + THING and chance sounding rude. Let’s look at why this is so.
  • Below are some of common questions you might be asked using this pattern. Check out the answers and see if you can spot how the Chinese answer differs from the English Question Answer 你想做什么? 我想吃饭。 Nǐ xiǎng zuò shénme? Wǒ xiǎng chīfàn. What do you want to do? I want to eat. 你想买什么? 我想买书。 Nǐ xiǎng mǎi shénme? Wǒ xiǎng mǎi shū. What do you want to buy? I want (to buy) a book. 你想喝什么? 我想喝水。 Nǐ xiǎng hē shénme? Wǒ xiǎng hē shuǐ. What do you want to drink? I want (to drink) water. 你想吃什么? 我想吃炒饭。 Nǐ xiǎng chī shénme? Wǒ xiǎng chī chǎo fàn. What do you want to eat? I want (to eat) fried rice. Did you see it? If someone asks you in English, “What do you want to eat?” you are likely to reply, “I want fried rice” or “I want some friend rice.” Saying, “I want to EAT fried rice” would sound pretty emphatic, like you haven’t eaten in days and must eat fried rice now! There aren’t too many situation in English where you would be inclined to say, "I want to drink water " but in Chinese repeating the verb that was asked in the question doesn’t sound strange at all. And for that reason, as a beginner, you are still better off using 想(xiǎng) instead of 要(yào) in this context. Below is another common question that uses the same pattern with a different verb and different question word. Question Answer 你想去哪里? 我想去公园。 Nǐ xiǎng qù nǎlǐ? Wǒ xiǎng qù gōngyuán. Where do you want to go? I want to go to the park.
  • Maybe you want to be specific about asking when someone plans to do something. You may have already noticed the placement of time reference words in the other questions. You usually put the time reference word in the beginning of the sentence. Here are two options: 你周末想做什么? What do you want to do this weekend? (Nǐ zhōumò xiǎng zuò shénme?) 周末你想做什么? What do you want to do this weekend? (Zhōumò nǐ xiǎng zuò shénme?) This question isn’t just used to make plans with someone. You can also use it to ask what someone plans on doing, regardless of whether you are included in the plans or not. It’s flexible too. You can change the time reference word to ask about 今天(jīntiān)-today, 明天(míngtiān)- tomorrow, etc. and you can change the verb 看(kàn)-to see, or 去哪里(qù nǎlǐ)-to go where. Check out the “Past” and “Future” tabs for more time reference words. But whatever you do, be sure to use it. Happy chatting!
  • Do you have a fork? Top Fill-in’s for: 你有没有 叉子? 1. 刀(dāo) knife 2. 勺子(sháozi) spoon 3. 筷子(kuàizi) chop sticks 4. 一瓶水(yī píng shuǐ) a bottle of water 5. 一支笔 (yī zhī bǐ) a pen 6. 手机 (shǒujī) cell phone 7. 烟 (yān) cigarette 8. 钱 (qián) money 9. 信用卡 (xìnyòngkǎ) credit card 10. 护照 (hùzhào) passport When you are learning a foreign language sometimes the differences between it and your native language can be stark. This is one of those times. But before we begin to take a look at this Question       你有没有叉子?  Nǐ yǒu méiyǒu chāzi? Do you have a fork?   Answer     没有。  Méiyǒu. No. Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 有 (yǒu) have 没有 (méiyǒu) not have  叉子 (chāzi) fork  Answer  De.initions     没有 (méiyǒu) not have   Question  #11   Have  not  have  
  • question, you should know that there are two ways to ask it that are both very common in Chinese. The question above is pretty exotic to English speakers, but it is a basic structure that you absolutely have to know, even as a beginner. We’ll take a look at the other way to ask this question later on. The question above is called a “yes/no” question because when you ask it you can simply reply with “yes” or “no.” The word choice isn’t so different from English but the structure makes it sound very blunt. The word 你(nǐ) means “you,” 有(yǒu) means “have,” 没有(méiyǒu) means “not have,” and 叉子(chāzi) means “fork.” We can structure the question like this in English too: “Do you have a fork or not?” or “Do you or don’t you have a fork?” But this structure in English almost always implies that the person asking the question has just about had it with the other person and wants to know, once and for all, about the fork in question. But in Chinese this is perfectly normal and doesn’t hold any implications about the person’s emotional state. Notice that the Chinese question doesn’t use “Do…” at the beginning. We also don’t have to use “a” before “fork.” Chinese is very streamlined in this way. There are no words for “a” and “the” in Chinese. There are ways to ask about “this” “that” “these” and “those” and you can also ask about numbers of things. But if you are just wondering if someone has something in general, like a fork, a pen or a phone, then you simply follow the pattern in the question above. Now let’s look at the answer. Do you notice something strange about how this kind of question is answered? After seeing the question, the answer sure does look logical. And it is quite short. But the English equivalent, “no,” is even shorter. Hmmm… Well, this is a “yes/no” question but notice that there is no “no” (or yes) in our answer. There is a negative word, 没(méi), but “no” doesn’t show up as it would in English. For example, in English a complete answer would be “No, I don’t have a fork.” But in Chinese there are no words for “yes” and “no!” You just repeat the verb in the question to form the affimative or put 没(méi) - or *不(bù) - in front of the verb to form the negative. So now you maybe wondering what the person would say if he did have a fork. In that case, the answer would be, 有(yǒu). Again, in Chinese you need to answer “yes/no” questions simply by repeating the verb in the question for “yes” or by putting a negative word in front of the verb for “no.” This happens often and it doesn’t happen with just verbs. Adjectives can follow the same pattern - but that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at this structure in some other common verb examples. *But… before we do that, you need to know that 没(méi) is used to negate the verb 有(yǒu). But you also need to know that 没(méi) IS NOT used to negate most verbs. The word 不(bù) gets
  • the job of putting a slash through your average verb. Both words are negative and both would translate to “not” in this context. Below are some other common “yes/no” questions. You can choose to add the pronoun at the beginning of the sentence or leave it out. Question No Yes 他在不在? 不在。 在。 Tā zài bú zài? Is he here? 你是不是美国人? 我不是美国人。 我是美国人。 Nǐ shì bú shì měiguó rén? Are you American? 你能不能跑? 不能。 能。 Nǐ néng bù néng pǎo? Can you run or not? 你会不会说英文? 不会。 会。 Nǐ huì bú huì shuō yīngwén? Can you speak English? 你要不要喝茶? 不要。 要。 Nǐ yào bú yào hē chá? Do you want tea? 你想不想吃饭? 不想。 想。 Nǐ xiǎng bù xiǎng chīfàn? Do you want to eat? *你喜不喜欢上网? 不喜欢。 喜欢。 Nǐ xǐ bù xǐhuan shàngwǎng? Do you like to go online? *我可不可以进去? 不可以。 可以。 Wǒ kě bù kěyǐ jìnqu.
  • Can I go in? *Check out how the two character verbs 喜欢(xǐhuan) and 可以(kěyǐ) can be shortened to just the first character in front of 不(bù) in this pattern. You don’t have to shorten it, but it is very common and a lot less cumbersome to say. More info The verb 有(yǒu) in our question 你有没有叉子? means “have.” But if we leave out the pronoun 你(nǐ) we would translate this question a little differently. So if we leave out the 你(nǐ), we get 有没有叉子? Here the verb 有(yǒu) might better be translated as “there is” as in, “Is there a fork around here?” or literally, “There is, there is not a fork?” This is a subtle change but important to know. For example, if you want know if someone is occupying a restroom in English you might ask at the door, “Is there someone in there?” but you would probably not say “Are YOU in there?” unless you were pretty certain of who was the occupant. Similarly, in Chinese asking 有没有人?(Yǒu méiyǒu rén? – Is there a person or not?) is more appropriate for the situation than including 你(nǐ). So to sum up this point, 你有没有… means, “Do you or don’t you have…” and 有没有 (Yǒu méiyǒu…?) means, “Is there or isn’t there…?” or “Are there you aren’t there…?” Even more info The other way to ask our “yes/no” question, “Do you have a fork?” is: 你有叉子吗? (Nǐ yǒu chāzi ma?) The word order in this question matches up well with English, “You have fork (question particle)?” Here the 吗(ma) just tells us that this is a question, similar to how “Do…” signifies a question at the beginning of the English sentence. This is also a very common pattern and while adding 吗(ma) is the easier way to go for English speakers, it is still just as important to be able to use the 有没有 (and the “Verb 不 Verb”) pattern. It’s easy to work this grammar pattern into conversation. You can use it to ask if someone has any brothers, sisters, a car, a suggestion or even time to talk – 时间(shíjiān). The most important thing is to use it – the more often the better. If you haven’t done so already, seek out a language partner to practice. In fact, seek out as many language partners as you can manage. The more
  • varied your experience is with Chinese, the more confidence you’ll gain and your language ability will blossom. So go out there and start using your Chinese. Happy Chatting!
  • How much? Money can be difficult to deal with in another language. Numbers have a way of resisting the mind’s attempts to switch from one language to another. If the language has a different way of expressing monetary units, like Chinese, then the job is even tougher. So in this lesson we won’t look at everything you need to know about money, but rather just the absolute basics of what you should know about shopping in places where Chinese is spoken. Let’s take a look at the question. The words for “How much” are 多少(duōshǎo). The character 多(duō) means “more” or “many.” The character 少(shǎo) means “few” or “less.” The character 钱(qián) means “money.” So 多 少钱(duōshǎo qián) might seem to have a connotation of “more or less money?” That might be good way to remember the characters but it is not a very good translation. This question isn’t asking for an estimate of how much something costs. It is simply asking the price of something. But it can be useful to keep a loose translation for 多少(duōshǎo) in your mind because it can Question       多少钱?  Duōshǎo qián? How much?   Answer     七块九毛九分钱。  qī kuài jiǔ máo jiǔ fēn qián. $7.99 Question Definitions 多少 (Duōshǎo) how much 钱 (qián) money  Answer  De.initions     七 (qī) 7  块 (kuài) dollars  九 毛 (jiǔ máo) 9/10  九分 (jiǔ fēn) 9/100  钱 (qián) money    Question  #12   How  much?  
  • also be used to ask about numbers in general, not just to ask “how much” or “how many.” We’ll talk more about that later. Now let’s look at the answer. In the US, we might say this price as, “Seven dollars and ninety nine cents” or we might just say, “Seven ninety nine” or if we want to round it up we might say, “8 bucks.” This kind of thing happens in Chinese too. The base monetary unit in China is 元(yuán) but most people will say 块(kuài) instead in everyday speech. It’s kind of the same as “dollars” and “bucks” in English. Then we have some words that don’t have a translation in English. Chinese uses measure words to hold the 10’s and 100’s place when talking about money: 毛(máo) is used for the 10’s place and 分(fēn) is used for the 100’s place. The word 钱(qián) on the end just means “money.” Just as in English, Chinese speakers may choose to leave out some of the pieces of information above, but not the numbers of course! As a beginner, it is best to get used to all the measure words above. It’s a good habit (and good practice) to repeat the price after you hear it with all the information to make sure you’ve understood. And when in doubt, ask the person to write the number down. More Info The characters 多少(duōshao) can also be used to ask about a phone number. 你的手机号码是多少? Nǐ de shǒujī hàomǎ shì duōshao? What is your cell phone number? (Note: the “shao” in “duōshao” has a light tone when it comes at the end of a sentence) 我的手机号码是八六七五三零九。 Wǒ de shǒujī hàomǎ shì bā liù qī - wǔ sān líng jiǔ. My cell phone number is 867-5309. The important thing to remember about 多少(duōshǎo) is that it is used to ask about numbers. It is most often used to ask “how much” or “how many” but it can be a bit more flexible and be used outside of that context as well. Chinese Numbers
  • *It is important to note that Chinese uses numerals (1, 2, 3…) just as English does. So you are likely to see prices, phone numbers, years, etc. expressed in numerals, not just Chinese characters. 一 Yī - 1 二 Èr - 2 三 Sān - 3 四 Sì - 4 五 Wǔ - 5 六 Liù - 6 七 Qī - 7 八 Bā - 8 九 Jiǔ - 9 十 Shí - 10 十一 Shíyī - 11 十二 Shí'èr -12 十三 Shísān - 13 十四 Shísì - 14 十五 Shíwǔ - 15 十六 Shíliù - 16 十七 Shíqī - 17 十八 Shíbā - 18 十九 Shíjiǔ -19 二十 Èrshí - 20 二十一 Èrshíyī - 21 (numbers to 99 follow the same pattern) Chinese numeration When dealing with larger numbers, Chinese is the same as English in most aspects. Chinese uses words for hundred, thousand and million. But unlike English, Chinese starts over after the thousands place and reuses the characters for tens, hundreds and thousands in combination with the word for the “ten thousands” place, 万(wàn). In other words, the Chinese number system
  • uses the thousands place in the same way English uses the hundreds place. The easiest way to explain this is to see it illustrated. Check out the number below. 1 0 0, 0 0 0, 0 0 0 (1 billion) 亿 千万 百万, 十万 万 千, 百 十 个 yì qiānwàn bǎiwàn, shíwàn wàn qiān, bǎi shí gè Asking the price of something is often associated with client-vendor relations, but you can work this into normal conversation without being too intrusive. If you are talking to someone online you can ask about the price of something kind of generic, like a cup of coffee, just as a matter of cultural curiosity: 在中国一杯咖啡多少钱?(Zài zhōngguó yībēi kāfēi duōshǎo qián?). There is always a way to use the language you know. The most important thing you need to do is practice. The more you use it, the better you’ll get. Happy chatting!
  • What time does the show start? Top Fill-in’s for: 演出几点 开始?(*See example sentences at bottom) Telling time in Chinese is refreshingly easy and logical. But there are some minor differences from English that could lead to major difficulties, so we are going to keep it as simple as possible. We will focus on the most basic way to express time so that you can know what to listen for when you hear it and so that you can tell time easily. Let’s look at the question. Notice that the word order is different from English. The event comes first in the sentence, in this case it is the show, 演出(yǎnchū). Next is the “what time” part of the sentence. It is important to know here that 几(jǐ) doesn’t mean “what” and 点(diǎn) doesn’t mean “time.” These characters are used to refer to how many “points” or “dots” are indicated by the hands on the clock. So imagine an old analogue clock with no hour numbers on it, just dots. The hour hand is somewhere over in the 7 o’clock area, but it’s kind of hard to tell. So you start counting the dots. Sure enough you count seven dots. Now the question makes a little more sense: “The show / how many dots / start?” If it is helpful for you, you might even want to remember the translation of this question as, “At what point does the show start?” instead of “What time does Question       演出几点开始?  Yǎnchū jǐ diǎn kāishǐ? What time does the show start?   Answer     七点半。  Qī diǎn bàn. 7:30 Question Definitions 演出 (yǎnchū) performance 几 (jǐ) how much 点 (diǎn) dots, points 开始 (kāishǐ) start  Answer  De.initions     七 (qī ) 7  点 (diǎn) dots, points  半 (bàn) half   Question  #13   What  time?  
  • the show start?” The final piece is 开始(kāishǐ) which means “start.” We put “start” at the end of the question in English too, which is convenient. Just as we can replace “the show” with other events, we can also replace “start” with other words: end, open, close, arrive, and leave. We’ll take a look at how to do that later. Now let’s learn how to tell time. Begin by saying the hour. In our answer we have seven, 七(qī). Next you need to say “dots,” 点 (diǎn). Sometimes you’ll hear or see 钟(zhōng) next, which means “clock” but let’s just keep it simple and stick with 点(diǎn). Now we are ready to talk about the minutes. In our time we have 半(bàn) which means “half.” So the time in our answer is literally “seven and a half dots.” Using “quarter” hours is also very simple. For “quarter after” use 一刻(yí kè), which means, “one quarter.” For “three quarters” of an hour use 三刻(sān kè). If you want to be specific about the minutes you can simply say the number of minutes as you would say any other number. So 7:17 would be 七点十七(qī diǎn shíqī). But you need to know two things about expressing minutes. First, if you have minutes from :01 to :09, you usually say the preceding zero, or 零 (ling) in Chinese. So 7:05 would be 七点零五(qī diǎn ling wǔ). Second, it is also common to put 分(fēn) on the end of the sentence to say “minutes.” So 7:05 could also be expressed 七点零 五分(qī diǎn ling wǔ fēn). But you never need to use 分(fēn) with half hours and quarter hours. It is only used when you are naming the number of minutes. More Info Maybe you want to ask about when, but not necessarily about the hour. For example, you might want to ask, “When are you going to China?” In this case you are not expecting the person to answer with a time, but rather some future date. Here Chinese works a lot like English. The characters for “when” in Chinese are 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) and they mean “what” and “time” respectively. But the 时候(shíhòu) part of this means time in general and isn’t specific to just clock time, therefore the meaning is closer to “when” than to “what time.” So you might be wondering if 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) can replace 几点(jǐ diǎn) in our question above. Well, yes it can. 演出几点开始? What time does the concert start? Yǎnchū jǐ diǎn kāishǐ? 演出什么时候开始? When does the concert start? Yǎnchū shénme shíhòu kāishǐ?
  • And now you might be wondering why not just use 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) all the time since it can do 几点(jǐ diǎn)’s job and more. The English translations above illustrate the answer pretty well. It’s important to know how to construct this question with both “what time” and “when” in English. The same goes for Chinese. But since we are primarily concerned with time in this lesson, 几点(jǐ diǎn) is the most logical option. Also, you need to use 点(diǎn) to tell the time anyway. Plus, it’s easier to say than 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) ! A wee bit more Many countries, including China, use the 24-hour clock for transportation time and other scheduled events. This is it’s own source of troubles for Americans who aren’t used to this system. We won’t complicate things by looking at it here. Just know that it works the same way as the patterns above. But it might be helpful to know how to express AM and PM. These are the three times of day that will be used with telling time: 早上 下午 晚上 zǎoshàng xiàwǔ wǎnshàng morning afternoon evening/night Just add these expressions to the beginning of the sentence in front of the hour to specify the time of day. 早上七点半。 Zǎoshàng qī diǎn bàn. 7:30 am (in the morning) *Here are some examples of how to ask questions about time and how to answer. Remember the basics that we covered in our first question and answer, but be aware of the other options that might pop up. Question Answer 演出几点开始? 七点一刻。 Yǎnchū jǐ diǎn kāishǐ? Qī diǎn yíkè.
  • What time does the show begin? 7:15 演出几点结束? 七点半。 Yǎnchū jǐ diǎn jiéshù? Qī diǎn bàn. What time does the show end? 7:30 商店几点开门? 七点三刻。 Shāngdiàn jǐ diǎn kāimén? Qī diǎn sān kè. What time does the store open? 7:45 商店几点关门? 七点零七。 Shāngdiàn jǐ diǎn guānmén? Qī diǎn líng qī. What time does the store close? 7:07 火车几点走? 七点零七分。 Huǒchē jǐ diǎn zǒu? Qī diǎn líng qī fēn. What time does the train leave? 7:07 火车几点到? 七点四十七分。 Huǒchē jǐ diǎn dào? Qī diǎn sìshíqī fēn. What time the train arrive? 7:47 现在几点? 七点。 Xiànzài jǐ diǎn? Qī diǎn. What time is it? 7:00 Time is an easy thing to work into normal conversation. You can simply ask someone what time it is or you can get a little more specific. If you are chatting online and it is late, you can always ask about bedtime as a matter of courtesy: 你几点要睡觉?(Nǐ jǐ diǎn yào shuìjiào?) Or you can just ask about a person’s general habits, like going to work: 你平常几点上班?(Nǐ píngcháng jǐ diǎn shàngbān?) Make opportunities to use the language you know and it will stick. Happy chatting!
  • When is your birthday? This question is asking about the most important day of the year, your birthday! It’s not only important on a personal level, but it also teaches you the pattern for expressing dates. And in Chinese, this pattern is very easy. Let’s take a look at the question. You can see that the word order and word choice are different from English, but this is one of those cases where the differences don’t seem to matter much. The sentence starts out with 你(nǐ) which means “you.” The character 的(de) can have lots of meanings, but here it just changes the “you” into the possessive “your.” Next, the character 生(shēng) means “birth” and the character 日(rì) means “day.” We couldn’t ask for a simpler translation. Next, the character 是(shì) means “is.” Now we’re on to the date. The character 几(jǐ) means “what.” You might remember that 什么(shénme) also means “what.” But the two are not interchangeable. When used in a question, 几(jǐ) always asks for “what number.” The character 月(yuè) means month. So 几月 (jǐ yuè) means, “what number month.” So you might be asking yourself why we need to use “what number” to talk about months. Chinese uses numbers from 1 to 12 for months rather than Question     你的生日是几月几号?  Nǐ de shēngrì shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào? When is your birthday?   Answer     我的生日是十一月二十七号。  Wǒ de shēngrì shì shí yī yuè èrshíqī hào. My birthday is November 27th. Question Definitions 你的 (nǐ de) your 生日 (shēngrì) birthday 是 (shì) is  几月 (jǐ yuè) what month 几号 (jǐ hào) what number   Answer  De.initions     我的 (wǒ de) my 生日 (shēngrì) birthday 是 (shì) is 十一月 (shíyī yuè) 11th month  二十七号 (èrshíqī haò) 27th day     Question  #14   Birthday  
  • names as in English. So January is literally “month one” 一月(yī yuè). All the rest of the months follow this “number + month” pattern too. Now for the day; The character 号(hào) is really the most confusing part of all this. The 号(hào) means “number.” Why Chinese doesn’t use the word “day” here is a mystery. But regardless, in this context, 几号(jǐ hào) means “what day.” The literal translation, “Your birthday is what month what day?” definitely sounds foreign and maybe even a bit robotic. But it is easy to understand and remember, and as we will see later, the pattern can be used to ask about any date. Now it’s time for the answer. The first part of the answer 我的生日是… (Wǒ de shēngrì shì…) just repeats the question. The only difference is that you need to replace “your” 你的(nǐ de) with “my” 我的(wǒ de). The next part of the answer is also a repetition of the question. All you need to do is replace 几(jǐ) in both places with the number for the month of your birthday and the number for the date of your birthday. Look at the pattern below. …几月几号? …十一月二十七号. …jǐ yuè jǐ hào? … shíyī yuè èrshíqī hào. …what month what day? … 11 month 27 day. More Info Here are some cosmic connections to help you remember this pattern. First, 日(rì) means “day” but it is also the character for “sun” and 月(yuè) means “month” but it is also the character for “moon.” This makes a lot of sense since the “movement” of the sun defines a day and the movement of the moon defines a month. They even kind of look like stylized representations of the sun and the moon (especially the moon with its crescent stroke). Also, you might remember that 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) means “when.” So why not use it in this question and avoid the 几月几号(jǐ yuè jǐ hào) altogether? You certainly could do that. The question would then look like this: 你的生日是什么时候? Nǐ de shēngrì shì shénme shíhòu? When is your birthday? Another common way to ask this question is with the phrase 哪一天(nǎ yītiān) replacing 几月几 号(jǐ yuè jǐ hào). We didn’t include these in our original question because you need to know the
  • 几月几号(jǐyuè jǐ hào) pattern to be able to say the date anyway. But please know that 什么时 候(shénme shíhòu) and 哪一天(nǎ yītiān) are both fine here too. Since the day and date are always wrapped up with one another, let’s take quick look at the days of the week. There are a few ways to express the days of the week in Chinese, but we are going to take a look at the most common. To ask “What day?” you say, 星期几?(Xīngqī jǐ?). To answer, you just replace 几(jǐ) in the question with a number. Just like Chinese months, Chinese days are expressed with numbers. Here are the days of the week: 星期一 星期二 星期三 星期四 星期五 星期六 星期天 xīngqī yī xīngqī èr xīngqī sān xīngqī sì xīngqī wǔ xīngqī liù xīngqī tiān Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Notice that the Chinese week starts on Monday and that Sunday uses the character 天(tiān) and not the number 7,七(qī). You cannot put 星期(xīngqī) and 七(qī) together to mean Sunday. And while we’re at it… Asking someone’s age in China isn’t as taboo as it can be in the West so it might come up. There are a few ways to ask how old a person is, but we’ll just look at one here. This question also uses 几(jǐ) to ask “what number year?” Question Answer 你今年几岁? 我今年四十岁。 Nǐ jīnnián jǐ suì? Wǒ jīnnián sìshí suì. How old are you(this year)? I’m 40 years old (this year). Personalizing your Q and A Here are some examples of how you can ask and answer questions about dates. Question Answer 圣诞节是几月几号? 十二月二十五号。 Shèngdàn jié shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào? Shí'èr yuè èrshíwǔ hào. When is Christmas? December 25th .
  • 聚会是几月几号? 三月十五号。 Jùhuì shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào? Sān yuè shíwǔ hào. When is the meeting? March 15th . *你几月几号去中国? 八月八号。 *Nǐ jǐ yuè jǐ hào qù zhōngguó ? Bā yuè bā hào. When are you going to China? August 8th . *Note: The placement of 几月几号(jǐ yuè jǐ hào ) is different here. You should know that Chinese uses numerals the same way English does. You will often see Chinese dates and other numbered information written with numerals instead of Chinese characters. For example: Question Answer 聚会是几月几号? 3 月 15 号。 It’s great to be able to ask about someonen’s birthday. You can always be sure that it will lighten the conversation a bit and it also gives you a chance to practice listening for and saying numbers. Most importantly, it garauntees a smile. Happpy chatting!
  • What is this? Despite some of the complexities that Chinese can throw at you, it can also be beautifully simple. This is one of those times. The question is a mirror image of the English and the answer matches up exactly with English. Let’s look at the question first. The question is in the reverse order of the English sentence, but since there are only three words to deal with this isn’t much of an obstacle. The first character is 这(zhè) and it means “this.” The character 是(shì) means “is.” Finally, 什么(shénme) means “what.” So the literal translation is “This is what?” Now let’s look at the answer. The answer follows the same word order as the question. (Notice that in English we switch the word order from question to answer. We do this a lot and it makes learning English a bit complicated.) All we need to do in the Chinese answer is replace the question word, 什么 (shénme), with a thing and you’re done. So the literal translation for the answer is, “This is tofu.” (We’re likely to complicate things even a little more in English by replacing “This…” in the question with the word “It…” in answer: “It’s tofu.”) Question       这是什么?  Zhè shì shénme? What is this?   Answer     这是豆腐。  Zhè shì dòufu. This is tofu. Question Definitions 这 (zhè) this 是 (shì) is 什么 (shénme) what  Answer  De.initions     这 (zhè) this 是 (shì) is 豆腐 (dòufu) tofu   Question  #15   What  is  this?  
  • More Info We’ve seen 什么(shénme) before and we’ve had some other words that we can also translate as “what.” But 什么(shénme) is the stock translation for “what.” You can say 什么?(shénme?) all by itself if you didn’t hear someone to mean, “What?” Or, if you did hear the person, but you can’t quite believe what the person said, then you can also say 什么?(shénme?). So as you can see, in this context 什么(shénme) works the same as the word “what” in English. Getting more specific You might find yourself in a situation where saying, “what is this?” might sound a little too blunt. Let’s say you are at someone’s home for dinner. Dinner is served and you’d like to know what the name of the dish is. In this situation, saying, “what is this?” can sound rather rude. In other contexts, asking, “what is this?” can make you seem one chopstick shy of a pair. Imagine you are in a teahouse in Shanghai. A cup of tea is placed in front you. You want to ask what kind of tea it is. But if you ask, “what is this?” people are likely to smile at you sympathetically and say, “tea.” Luckily, asking about kinds of things uses the pattern that we’ve reviewed above. All you need to do is add the kind of thing you want to know about at the end of the question, 这是什么 _____?(Zhè shì shénme_____?) Take a look at the examples below. 这是什么食物? Zhè shì shénme shíwù? What kind of food is this? 这是什么茶? Zhè shì shénme chá? What kind of tea is this? 这是什么肉? Zhè shì shénme ròu? What kind of meat is this? 这是什么蔬菜? Zhè shì shénme shūcài? What kind of vegetable is this?
  • 这是什么水果? Zhè shì shénme shuǐguǒ? What kind of fruit is this? 这是什么酒? Zhè shì shénme jiǔ? What kind of alcohol is this? 这是什么啤酒? Zhè shì shénme píjiǔ? What kind of beer is this? 这是什么东西? Zhè shì shénme dōngxi? What kind of thing is this? *Note: If you need to say “that” instead of “this” you just replace 这(zhè) with 那(nà). 那是什么? Nà shì shénme? What is that? If you have been to Asia then you probably know that this question is essential just because there are so many things there that you can’t find in the West. If you do most of your communicating online, then you can use this question to ask for the meaning of a word. For example: 我很困啊。(Wǒ hěn kùn a.) This means, “I’m very sleepy.” But maybe you’ve never seen the character 困(kùn) and when you look it up “sleepy” isn’t one top few definitions. So you could then ask: “困”是什么?(“Kùn” shì shénme?) or you can say:
  • “困”是什么意思?(“Kùn” shì shénme yìsi?) This is a nice alternative to saying you don’t understand because you can be specific about what exactly is giving you a problem. This is also a good way to practice your listening skills. You can listen and repeat what the person said and throw it back to him or her in the question. So be sure to give it a try. Remember, you need to use these questions to improve your fluency and the more you practice the better. Happy chatting!
  • How are you doing? Top Fill-in’s for: 我 很好。谢谢。你呢? 1. 不错。 (Bú cuò.) Great. (lit. not bad) 2. 还好。(Hái hǎo.) Good. (lit. still good) 3. 还可以。(Hái kěyǐ.) Okay. 4. 我很忙。(Wǒ hěn máng.) I’m very busy. 5. 不太好。(Bú tài hǎo.) Not too good. 6. 不好。(Bù hǎo.) Not good. Think of all the ways that you could greet someone in English: How are you? What’s up? How have you been? How are you doing? How is it going? How have you been lately? What’s new? What’s going on? They are all slightly different, but they all get the same point across. This happens in Chinese too. There are lots of ways to greet people. Which greeting you use might depend on your relationship with the person, the time of day or the kind of response you Question       你最近怎么样?  Nǐ zuìjìn zěnmeyàng? How are you doing?   Answer     我很好。谢谢。你呢?  Wǒ hěn hǎo. Xiè xiè. Nǐ ne? I'm good. Thanks. And you? Question Definitions 你 (nǐ) you 最近 (zuìjìn) recently 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) how  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 很 (hěn) very 好 (hǎo) good 谢谢 (xiè xiè) thanks 你呢 (nǐ ne) and you   Question  #16   How  are  you?  
  • are looking for. Today we will be looking at two ways to greet someone with the question, “How are you doing.” This question doesn’t match up with English very well at all. The word order and word choice is very different from English. There is no verb in the sentence and to make things worse, the words don’t translate very easily. So today we’ll take a slightly more detailed look at what is going on with this question so you can get a handle on it. The first word, 你(Nǐ) is no stranger to us. It means “you” and it often comes at the beginning of a question, so no surprise here. The next word is 最近(zuìjìn) and it means “recently.” This is one of those times that taking a closer look might help you remember the characters and help you to make a connection when you see them in another context. The character 最(zuì) is a superlative meaning “most.” You can put it in front of any adjective and it gives it the “–est” treatment: like biggest, smallest, etc. For example, we can say 最好(zuì hǎo) to mean “best.” In our question 最(zuì) is connected to 近 (jìn) which means “close.” The character 近(jìn) can also be used to talk about distance between two places that are “close.” So 最近(zuìjìn) means “most close” in a metaphorical sense. You can take it to mean “most close time” or maybe “most close to you.” It’s a slippery word and can take a bit to get used to. At any rate, the best translation we have for it is “recently” or “lately.” Finally we have 怎么样(zěnmeyàng). There are few phrases that are as versatile as 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) in Chinese. Its flexibility makes it a must-know phrase, but it also means that it can have a lot of definitions. In our question here, 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) just means “how.” But, of course, we have three characters, so let’s take this phrase apart to understand it a little better. The character 怎(zěn) means “how” in this context, but it can also mean “why” or “what.” The character 么(me) has no meaning. All you really need to know is that it is just something that gets thrown in with a few of the question words: 什么(shénme) 什么时候(shénme shíhòu) and 怎么(zěnme). The character 样(yàng) is kind of ambiguous. It can mean, “kind” “way” “style” or “type.” It isn’t very helpful for us. A very rough literal translation of these three characters might be “what way.” Put the whole question together and you get, “You most close what way?” That’s a very sketchy translation to say the least, but it can help you to remember the characters and to make a connection when they come up in other contexts. Now, after all that, if you just remember 你最近怎么样?(Nǐ zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?) as a chunk that means, “How are you doing?” you’ll be just fine! Again, please know that there are plenty of ways to greet people in Chinese. This is a way ask about how someone is doing that you haven’t talked to lately. The answer gives the information you’d expect (a subject and an adjective to describe it) but Chinese is unique when it comes to adjectives. We start out with 我(wǒ) which means “I.” The next word is 很(hěn) which means “very.” But there are two things that are odd about this. First,
  • Chinese doesn’t use a form of the word “to be” with adjectives. For example, in English you might say, “I am good” so you would expect the Chinese translation to be 我是好(Wǒ shì hǎo). THIS IS NOT CORRECT. Chinese doesn’t use the verb 是(shì) with adjectives. The second odd thing is that the word 很(hěn) in this context doesn’t really carry much meaning with it. Yes, the word 很(hěn) does mean “very” but if you really wanted to say “very good” in this context, you would probably replace 很(hěn) with another word. Here 很好(hěn hǎo) will most often mean “good” not “very good.” You might be wondering if you can just skip the 很(hěn) altogether. In this particular sentence structure you can, but with other adjectives, not with 好 (hǎo). The general rule is that adjectives that are only one syllable will get 很(hěn), or some other modifier, in front of them. The next sentence simply means “thanks.” The character 谢 (xiè) means “to thank” and Chinese likes to keep things symmetrical, so the syllable is repeated. We’ve seen the last sentence before. The character 你(nǐ) means “you” and 呢(ne) is a particle that just acts as a question mark that the speaker needs to say. So our literal translation is, “I (very) good. Thanks. And you?” More Info In English we can use the question, “How are you doing?” to mean something more like, “How are you feeling?” or “What’s the matter?” There are a few ways to hint at this in Mandarin as well. You can say, 你怎么了?(Nǐ zěnme le?) or you can say 什么事?(Shénme shì?). Below are some ways to respond: 我饿了。(Wǒ è le.) I’m hungry. 我渴了。(Wǒ kě le.) I’m thirsty. 我病了。(Wǒ bìng le.) I’m sick. 我不舒服。(Wǒ bù shūfu.) I don’t feel well. (lit. I not comfortable.) 我很累。(Wǒ hěn lèi.) I’m tired. 我很困。(Wǒ hěn kùn.) I’m sleepy. 我很冷。(Wǒ hěn lěng.) I’m cold. 我很热。(Wǒ hěn rè.) I’m hot.
  • *Note: the adjectives 饿(è) 渴(kě) and 病(bìng) do not use 很(hěn) as a modifier. Greetings are obviously a must in any language. Although greetings come and go quickly in a conversation, they shouldn’t be underestimated. Greetings set the tone of a conversation. Different situations call for different kinds of greetings and it is important to start out the right way. If you are greeting someone who you aren’t too familiar with, who is older or who is in some kind of position of authority, you should use the formal “you” which is 您(nín). Answering and telling about your present state is pretty important, so get familiar with the list of conditions under “More Info.” And above all else, use the language. Happy chatting!
  • What does she look like? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 她很 漂亮。 1. 好看(hǎokàn) good looking 2. 难看(nánkàn) ugly (lit. hard look) 3. 可爱(kě'ài ) cute 4. 帅(shuài) handsome 5. 老(lǎo) old 6. 年轻(niánqīng) young 7. 高(gāo) tall 8. 矮 (ǎi) short 9. 胖(pàng) fat 10. 瘦(shòu) thin Asking what someone looks like in Chinese isn’t too hard despite the fact that the question doesn’t resemble the English at all. This is one of those cases where the Chinese makes more Question       她长什么样?  Tā zhǎng shénme yàng? What does she look like?   Answer     她很漂亮.  Tā hěn piàoliang. She is very pretty. Question Definitions 她 (tā) she 长 (zhǎng) grows 什么(shénme) what 样(yàng) way  Answer  De.initions     她 (tā) she 很 (hěn) very 漂亮 (piàoliang) pretty      Question  #17   What  does  she  look   like?  
  • sense than the English. The English question, “What does she look like?” is obscured a bit. If you were trying to learn English, you might expect to hear an answer comparing the person with a noun, not an adjective: Q: What does she look like? A: She looks like a model. In comparison, the Chinese question is a lot more logical. Let’s take a look. The word 她(tā) means “she.” (Note: the masculine “he” has the same pronunciation but uses a different character, 他) The next word, 长 (zhǎng) has a few meanings, but here it would literally mean “grow.” The characters 什么(shénme) mean “what” and the word 样(yàng) means “way.” The literal translation sounds foreign but winds up being perfectly logical and easy to remember: “She grows what way?” Now let’s go on to the answer. The answer gives the information you’d expect (a subject and an adjective to describe it) but Chinese is unique when it comes to adjectives. We start out with 她(tā) which means “she.” The next word is 很(hěn) which means “very.” But what makes Chinese different is that it doesn’t use a form of the word “to be” with adjectives. For example, in English you might say, “She is pretty” so you would expect the Chinese translation to be 她是漂亮(Tā shì piàoliang). THIS IS NOT CORRECT. Chinese doesn’t use the verb 是(shì) with adjectives in this grammar pattern. The final word is 漂亮(piàoliang) which means, “pretty.” The definitions of the individual characters don’t help out much here, so it’s best to just remember them together as “pretty.” So together we get, “She very pretty.” There are lots of situations in which you can use this question. You might be asking for clarification. Perhaps someone is talking to you about someone else, but you’re not sure who. Or maybe you just need more information about someone you are talking about with a friend. This question is a way to keep the conversation going and maybe even a way to get the person to express his opinions about someone else. If you are chatting with IM online, you might even ask this to the person with whom you’re chatting: 你长什么样?(Nǐ zhǎng shénme yàng?) Whatever the case, be sure to use it. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to ask the question, you can always find a situation in which you can describe a person to someone else. Happy chatting!
  • What is she like? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 她很 友好。 1. 和气(héqì) nice, kind 2. 吝啬(lìnsè) mean 3. 外向(wàixiàng) outgoing 4. 害羞(hàixiū) shy 5. 疯(fēng) crazy 6. 懒惰(lǎnduò) lazy 7. 勤奋(qínfèn) hardworking 8. 聪明(cōngmíng) smart, clever 9. 笨(bèn) stupid 10. 随和(suíhé) easy going Question       她人怎么样?  Tā rén zěnmeyàng? What is she like?   Answer     她很友好.  Tā hěn yǒuhǎo. She is very friendly. Question Definitions 她的 (tā de) her 人 (rén) person 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) how  Answer  De.initions     她 (tā) she 很 (hěn) very 友好 (yǒuhǎo) friendly      Question  #18   What  is  she  like?  
  • We first saw the phrase 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) back in question #16, “How are you doing?” It’s useful because it works in a lot of basic patterns. But perhaps more importantly, it gives your language ability some depth. You no longer have to spell out the details of your life in objects (nouns) and actions (verbs). Now you can use 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) to get to the details about the objects and actions. You can also express your thoughts and opinions. That’s deep stuff. This lesson gets you to that next level. Let’s take a look. The character 她(tā) means, “she” or “her.” Next is the word 人(rén) means “person.” This question is similar to the English question “What is she like?” in that there is no direct reference to personality. But in Chinese we need to add the 人(rén) because without it we would be asking “How is she doing?” Finally we come back to 怎么样(zěnmeyàng). We took a detailed look at 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) back in lesson #16 so you can go back and check it out if you are curious about the individual characters. But in this context it is easiest to just translate 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) as “how.” All together the literal translation is, “Her person how?” If you can think of the word 人(rén) as “personality” in this context, it might help the question make more sense to you . Let’s go on to the answer. The answer gives the information you’d expect (a subject and an adjective to describe it) but Chinese is unique when it comes to adjectives. We start out with 她(tā) which means “she” or “her.” The next word is 很(hěn) which means “very.” But what makes Chinese different is that it doesn’t use a form of the word “to be” with adjectives. For example, in English you might say, “She is friendly” so you would expect the Chinese translation to be 她是友好(Tā shì yǒuhǎo). THIS IS NOT CORRECT. Chinese doesn’t use the verb 是(shì) with adjectives in this grammar pattern. The final word is 友好(yǒuhǎo). The character 友(yǒu) means, “friend” or “friendly”and the character 好(hǎo) means, “good” so it is easy to see how 友好(yǒuhǎo) matches up with “friendly” in English. This question is easy to work into conversation. You can substitute in a name or something like “your friend” 你的朋友(Nǐ de péngyǒu) for 她(tā). Now that you can describe a person’s physical traits and personality traits you will sound more fluent. You can give opinions and details about a person and in return that gives you’re language ability a new personality as well. So be sure to use these questions and answers to enrich your conversations. Happy chatting!
  • How was the movie? Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 这部电影 怎么样? 1. 本书 (yì běn shū) a book 2. 本杂志 (yì běn zázhì) a magazine 3. 个视频 (yí gè shìpín) a video 4. 场游戏 (yì chǎng yóuxì) a game (general word for game) 5. 个网络游戏 (yí gè wǎngluò yóuxì) an online game 6. 个应用程序(yí gè yìngyòng chéngxù) an app 7. 个电视节目(yí gè diànshì jiémù) a TV program 8. 场音乐会 (yì chǎng yīnyuè huì) a concert 9. 场演出(yì chǎng yǎnchū) a performance (concert, show, play) 10. 场球赛 (yì chǎng qiúsài) a ball game Question       这部电影怎么样?  Zhè bù diànyǐng zěnmeyàng? How was the movie?   Answer     我觉得很有意思.  Wǒ juéde hěn yǒu yìsi. I thought it was very interesting. Question Definitions 这部 (zhè bù) this 电影 (diànyǐng) movie 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) how  Answer  De.initions     我 (wǒ) I 觉得 (juéde) think 很 (hěn) very 有意思 (yǒu yìsi) interesting      Question  #19   How  was  the  movie?  
  • Top 10 Fill-in’s for: 我觉得很 有意思。 1. 好看(hǎokàn) good 2. 棒(bàng) great 3. 好玩(hǎowán) fun 4. 好笑(hǎoxiào) funny 5. 带劲儿(dàijìn er) exciting 6. 好美(hǎoměi) beautiful 7. 还行(hái xíng) okay 8. 不好玩(bù hǎowán) not fun 9. 美意思(méiyìsi) not interesting 10. 无聊(wúliáo) boring We’ve come a long way in only19 question. When we started out we could only ask and tell our names, and now we are about to give our opinions on films. It feels very civilized, doesn’t it? And you’ll be glad to know that 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) is back again so there is very little new stuff to learn in this lesson. Let’s take a look. The character 这(zhè) means, “this.” Chinese doesn’t have a word for “the” so you’ll always need to use words like “this” and “that” in contexts where English might use “the.” The next word 部(bù) is a measure word for movies. Measure words are used when you are pointing out an object (this pen, that pen) or when you are counting objects (1 pen, 2 pens, 3 pens). We have measure words in English too: a pair of pants, a flock of geese, a cup of coffee. But there are lots more in Chinese and they are used more often. (To be honest, this is kind of a pain when you are first learning the language. The best thing to do is just try to remember the measure words with their objects when they come up in context. Trying to memorize all the measure words and the categories of things they measure, or count, isn’t really a good use of your time at this point.) The next word is 电影(diànyǐng). This is a fantastic word. At this point you may not know that Chinese doesn’t create new characters for new words. Instead they just recycle characters that already exist. So when new inventions pop up, Chinese has no choice but to dig through thousands of characters to match the symbols with the object. The character 电(diàn) means “electric.” The character 影(yǐng) means, “shadow.” So together we get “electric shadow.” That’s genuine poetry right there! Finally we come to 怎么样(zěnmeyàng) which means, “how” or “what way.” The rough literal translation is one that’s likely to stick with you, “This movie (electric shadow) how?”
  • This answer starts out differently from the other answers that we’ve seen come from 怎么样 (zěnmeyàng) questions. We are giving our opinion here so instead of starting out with a word for “it” we say 我(wǒ) which means, “I.” The character 觉(jué) means “sense” or “feel.” The character 得(dé) is a particle that could translate as “ability” but it doesn’t really add much meaning in this context. So you might want to think of 觉得(juéde) as “feel ability” just for the purpose of remembering the two characters. We don’t need to use a word for “it” in the answer. The next word is 很(hěn) which means “very.” (Chinese does not use 是(shì) to describe objects with adjectives. Check out question #16 for details). Finally we have 有意思(yǒu yìsi). The character 有(yǒu) means, “to have.” The character 意(yì) means “meaning” and 思(sī) means “thinking” or “thought.” So if something “has meaning thought” then it’s logical that it is interesting. The rough translation to get you thinking in this Chinese sentence pattern is “I think very interesting.” With this question you’ve taken your first step into the intermediate level. Giving your opinion about media, entertainment, politics, etc. is the function of a thinking person. Being able to tell your thoughts on a topic, even in a very basic way, invites others into a bit of your personal space. Once you’ve grasped talking about you opinions in Chinese you’ll start to feel more like yourself in the language and you’ll gain a lot of confidence. But you can’t get there if you don’t use it. So be sure to express your opinions and you will start to feel like yourself in Chinese. Happy chatting!
  • How do you say, “fortune cookie” in Chinese? We’ve finally come to the end of our 20 Questions to Basic Fluency and we are wrapping up with one of the most useful questions. This question not only helps you learn new words and saves you when you’re in a jam, but it also gives you a productive pattern that allows you to ask how to do anything. Let’s look at the question. “Fortune cookie” can obviously be replaced with anything you need to know about. If you don’t know what the thing is or if the person you’re speaking to doesn’t know English you can just say, 这个(zhè ge) which means “this” or 那个(nà ge) which means “that” and continue with the rest of the question. The word 中文(zhōngwén) means “Chinese.” You could also replace this with 汉语(hànyǔ) or 普通话(pǔtōnghuà) both of which also mean Mandarin Chinese. Another option is to just drop the word for “Chinese” altogether since it’s probably pretty obvious which language you are inquiring about. The word 怎么(zěnme) means “how” and the word 说(shuō)   Question       "Fortune cookie"中文怎么说?  "Forture cookie" zhōngwén zěnme shuō? How do you say "fortune cookie" in Chinese?   Answer     幸运饼干.  xìngyùn bǐnggān. "xìngyùn bǐnggān.." Question Definitions 中文 (zhōngwén) Chinese 怎么 (zěnme) how 说 (shuō) say               Answer  De.initions     幸运 (xìngyùn) good fortune 饼干 (bǐnggān) cookie      Question  #20   How  do  you  say...?  
  • means “say.” It’s really just that easy. But now let’s divide this question in half between 中文 (zhōngwén) and 怎么(zěnme). You’ll notice that when you look at the sentence this way, the order of the two halves is reversed from English. Now let’s just look at 怎么说(zěnme shuō) half of the sentence. This is a great pattern to know because placing 怎么(zěnme) in front of a verb can ask how something is done. 怎么做 – how to do something (zěnme zuò) 怎么学 – how to learn/study something (zěnme xué) 怎么走 – how to get somewhere (zěnme zǒu) 怎么看 – how to see or read something (zěnme kàn) 怎么弹吉他 – how to play guitar (zěnme tán jíta) 怎么知道 – how to know something (zěnme zhīdào) This works with most common verbs. You can also ask if someone knows how to do something or say that you know how to do something by using this pattern: 你知道怎么跳舞?– Do you know how to dance? (Nǐ zhīdao zěnme tiàowǔ?) 我知道怎么打网球。– I know how to play tennis. (Wǒ zhīdào zěnme dǎ wǎngqiú) More Info
  • The phrase 怎么会(zěnme huì) falls into this pattern and is very productive in it’s own right. You can use it alone as a question to mean, “How come?” or “How can that be?” You can also add information to ask about how something could be possible: 他们怎么会来?- How come they came? (Tāmen zěnme huì laí.) 你怎么会没来?– How come you didn’t come? (Nǐ zěnme huì méi laí.) 他怎么会走得这么快?– How come he’s walking so fast? (Tā zěnme huì zǒu de zhème kuài?) 怎么会有这么多车子?– How come there are so many cars? (Zěnme huì yǒu zhème duō chēzi?) 怎么会下雨了?– How can it be raining? (Zěnme huì xiàyǔ le?) The phrase 怎么办(zěnme bàn) is also very useful. Used by itself it means, “What can be done?” or “What can/should I do?” You can add information in front of this phrase to ask, “What should be done about…?” 考试怎么办?– What should I do about the test? (Kǎoshì zěnme bàn?) 钱包没带,怎么办?– I didn’t bring my wallet, what should I do? (Qiánbāo méi dài, zěnme bàn?) 你知道怎么办?– Do you know what to do? (Nǐ zhīdào zěnme bàn?) 我不知道怎么办。– I don’t know what to do. (Wǒ bù zhīdào zěnme bàn.)
  • Finally, you can use 怎么这么(zěnme zhème) plus an adjective to express, “How could something be so…?” 怎么这么贵!- How could it be so expensive! (zěnme zhème guì!) 怎么这么慢!- How could it be so slow! (zěnme zhème màn!) 怎么这么难!- How could it be do difficult! (zěnme zhème nán!) And just to bring things full circle, let’s reference Question #1, “What is your name?” If you don’t know what something is or how to say something, you can also use this question to ask what something is called: 这个叫什么?- What is this called? (Zhè ge jiào shénme?) Our answer is really just a blank to be filled in by the information you are looking for. You might hear 这是(zhè shì) in front of it to say, “this is” but this is really a case where answering in an incomplete sentence is okay. *Note: Fortune cookies are mostly a western phenomenon. You might have a tough time finding them in the China! That brings us to the end of the 20 Questions to Basic Fluency. We hope that the situations and patterns that we’ve covered will be useful to you. Now it’s time to go out there in the wild and just start talking. It’s really that easy. Happy Chatting!
  • Resources Below are some recommendations to your further learning. These are resources that I consult regularly and I think they are excellent for Mandarin students at the Novice and Intermediate levels. Web Resources Study More Chinese - http://studymorechinese.com/ - There are lots of sites out there for learning Mandarin, but Study More Chinese is unique. It is a social network for people who are learning Chinese. It is a free online resource where you can share, collaborate and improve your Chinese. It features videos, music, blogs and discussions in both English and Mandarin Chinese. The members range from beginners to Mandarin Chinese teachers, so whatever your present level is, you will be sure to find members and content that will help you with your studies. ChinesePod - http://chinesepod.com/ - This site provides one of the best online environments for learning Mandarin Chinese. ChinesePod has many products and services, but its center piece is its huge library of authentic podcast conversations. There are dialogues at every level and on just about any topic that might interest you, so you can truly choose to learn about almost anything you want. ChinesePod has many subscription options so that you can choose the products and services that fit your needs. When learning Mandarin you really need to hear the language spoken as often as possible, and ChinesePod makes this both easy and enjoyable. All Set Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki - http://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/ - This is the most complete online reference site for Mandarin Chinese grammar. Grammar topics are divided into levels from “Beginner” to “Upper Intermediate” and every topic on the site is linked and cross referenced. The grammar explanations are clear and written in a hip style that makes it easy to read and understand. The site is also linked to other resources, such as books, websites and academic articles. The site is a hub for Mandarin Chinese grammar. When you’ve got a grammar question, this site is your best shot at finding a credible answer. Books
  • Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar, Herzberg, Qin Xue and Larry, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA, 2011 ISBN: 978-1-933330-89-1 http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Patterns-Chinese-Grammar-Structures/dp/1933330899 The Herzbergs have taught Mandarin Chinese for decades and they have an intimate knowledge of how the English speaking mind can mess up Mandarin. This is the perfect grammar book for those who already have some knowledge of the Mandarin and who just want some simple answers, once and for all! The grammar explanations are clear and concise. One of the great successes of this book is that the Herzbergs don’t give you a dizzying amount of option. They tell you to just say it this way, and not that way – period. This is very comforting to the Novice and Intermediate learner who is starting to feel that it would be easier to dig a hole to China than to learn the language. The book clocks in at just over 120 pages, so it is easy to carry. In fact, it is so short that after a fair amount of use you can practically commit it to memory. And if all this weren’t enough to convince you, it is also cheap. If you are starting to get serious about learning Mandarin, this book is for you. Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook, Garnaut, Anthony, Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, Victoria, Australia, 7th Edition, 2010 ISBN: 9781742200880 http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Planet-Mandarin- Phrasebook/dp/1742200885/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338945628&sr=1-1 Sometimes you just want to know how to say stuff – lots of stuff. Dictionaries can be a drag. But phrasebooks are fun because they have lots of related vocabulary all on one page. Phrasebooks don’t tend to be great to learn from but they are good reference tools. They are more cohesive than a dictionary and therefore you are more likely to remember the phrases and the related chunks of words. Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebooks is my personal favorite because the grammar patterns (the phrases) are very flexible and it offers lots of useful, authentic vocabulary. It also has cultural notes tucked in to the sections so that the language it presents has some context. The book is listed at under $10 so it affordable as well. Mobile
  • Pleco Dictionary - http://www.pleco.com/ There is not much to discuss about which dictionary app you should get. Pleco is the one you want. There are lots of paid add-ons. The Web Reader and Pasteboard Reader are two of my favorites because you can click through a Chinese webpage and see the definitions of the words pop up in English. As far as Chinese dictionaries are concerned, this is the one that the pro’s go to first. trainchinese Chinese Writer - http://www.trainchinese.com/v1/a_all/writer.php There aren’t too many apps out there that can really help you practice writing Chinese characters. Many try but most fail. The trainchinese Chinese Writer is successful for a few reasons. First, the app has you trace the character instead of writing it freehand. This is helpful because you are always practicing it correctly, plus it also looks nice. Second, you can make you own character packs so you can practice whatever is most important to you. Third, this app has a practice mode as well as a game mode. In the game mode characters fall from the top of the screen and you have to trace them before they hit the bottom. As you play the rate at which the characters fall increases. Once you let a few characters hit the bottom of the screen the game is over and you get a score. It’s very simple and surprisingly addictive. There is audio so you can hear each character pronounced as well. One of the most difficult things about learning Chinese characters is finding the time to practice. The trainchinese Chinese Writer gives you the flexibilty to practice any time you have a few extra moments. The app can’t take the place of pen and paper, but what it can do is provide you with the muscle memory to recall the characters and a convenient way to practice. If you really want to learn how to write Chinese characters but don’t have an hour or so each day to sit down and practice, get this app and be sure to take the plunge and buy all the characters packs. It will cost you $10 but is well worth it. (Note: at the time of publication, Skritter came out with a mobile app. I haven’t tried it so I can’t recommend it at this point, but it looks to be one of the best, if not the best, mobile app for Chinese Character training.)