Guest Author - Michelle Lee
If you are planning a short trip to China, or simply want to learn a few common and practical Chinese, in particular Mandarin phrases, this article is for you. The pronunciation guide in this article is design to help English speakers to learn the given phrases with ease.
Each language group uses a different set of facial muscles and tongue movements to create their unique set of sounds used within its system. Chinese language pronunciation is inherently different from English. So it can be rather difficult for a non-Chinese speaker to learn to pronounce Chinese words accurately without proper language training and months of practice.
With this in mind, this pronunciation guide is written to help you to learn to pronounce Chinese phrases with ease so that you can get the idea across without having to twist your tongue.
How is it done?
I have tried to give you the English pronunciation equivalent, instead of giving you the Chinese pinyin system.
The downside of using this method is that your phrases will not be phonetically exact, and you may sound slightly off tone. But the upside is that you will learn the phrases a lot quicker and with ease because you are not trying to use different facial muscles and tongue movements, instead, you are merely replicating similar sounds that you have always been using.
In this guide, the first line is the ‘pinyin’ for the words. The second line is the ‘English equivalent’ pronunciation. You would pronounce the words as if you are speaking in English. This will bring you close enough to the original Chinese sounds. The third line is a simple explanation of the phrase.
Now, let’s begin.
Phrase: Ni hao. [“Ni” means ‘you’, and “hao” means ‘good’.]
Pronounced as: nee how ['nee' as in "knee".]
Uses: This is a standard greeting you can use when meeting someone. It is really like saying “Good day”. If someone greets you “ni hao” first, you would reply the same.
Phrase: Xie xie [Literally, it means “thanks thanks”.]
Pronounced as: s-eh s-eh [pronounce ‘s’ as in “snake”]
Uses: Use the same as “thanks”.
You are welcome, or don’t mention it.
Phrase: Bu xie [Literally, it means “no thanks”.]
Pronounced as: boo s-eh
Uses: There are always several ways to say the same thing. “Bu xie” is a polite yet colloquial.
Goodbye and see you again.
Phrase: Zai jian [Literally, it means “again see”.]
Pronounced as: ja-I gen [“ja” as in ‘ninja’, “I” as in ‘I am’, “gen” as in ‘generation’.]
Uses: Modern Chinese frequently uses ‘bye-bye’ in parting. So you may use the same. However, “zai jian” always conveys a warmer feeling.