logo
g Text Version
Beauty & Self
Books & Music
Career
Computers
Education
Family
Food & Wine
Health & Fitness
Hobbies & Crafts
Home & Garden
Money
News & Politics
Relationships
Religion & Spirituality
Sports
Travel & Culture
TV & Movies

dailyclick
Bored? Games!
Nutrition
Postcards
Take a Quiz
Rate My Photo

new
Houseplants
Romance Movies
Creativity
Family Travel
Southwest USA
Irish Culture
Home Finance


dailyclick
All times in EST

Clairvoyance: 08:00 PM

Full Schedule
g
g Chinese Culture Site

BellaOnline's Chinese Culture Editor

g

Simple Chinese Phrases

Guest Author - Caroline Baker

One of the very first phrases that most people pickup when studying or trying to learn Chinese is "How are you?"

Ni hao ma?

This simple phrase shows quite a bit about the Chinese grammar and structure that makes it so different from Latin based languages like English.

Literally translated, this phrase is "you good [question reflective]". The simplicity of the structure is a characteristic throughout the Chinese language. There isn't a formal verb as you would see in English, nor does there need to be. Chinese is a language of simplicity and flexibility as there is no need for a verb in order to understand the message here. You can try to stick the "to be" Chinese shi into the sentence but you'd be grammatically incorrect to a Chinese speaker.

The last part of the question, ma, doesn't literally have a translation in English. This is a reflective to help identify that this sentence should have an answer, it is a question.

In English, in order to ask a question, the last word of the sentence in inflected. Ones voice raises at the end to indicate a question that must be answered. To illustrate, say the following sentences aloud and notice how at the end of the sentence, your tone rises:
I know you. -- implying the directive
I know you? -- implying the question

In Chinese, to raise the tone on any given character would change its meaning. Inflections and tones are very important to pronunciation in the Chinese language. One common phrase given is "ma(flat) ma(rising) ma(fall-rise) ma(falling)". With the same sound but different inflections, one has just said "mother buy horse scold". Thus, there needs to be some sort of other way to distinguish a change in delivery of the phrase so that it becomes a question. This is where the ma comes in above. There are several of these expressive terms throughout the Chinese language that have no direct translation in English.

Interestingly enough, while this may be the most common phrase taught in Chinese, it's not actually used a lot by native speakers. Many these days shorten it even further to simply "Ni hao" to say "Hello". Even more modern to say "hello" is the term "Wei". If you trace back in history, greetings were more formally about food. It would not be uncommon to hear someone asking "Have you eaten yet?". Also, references to the day "Jian tian hao." would not be uncommon as a form of greeting rather than "how are you?"

Still, Ni hao ma? teaches several important aspects of this language and is a powerful phrase when first learning Chinese and a great way to start on your journey through this language.

Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Twitter Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Facebook Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to MySpace Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Del.icio.us Digg Simple+Chinese+Phrases Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Yahoo My Web Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Google Bookmarks Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Stumbleupon Add Simple+Chinese+Phrases to Reddit




RSS | Related Articles | Editor's Picks Articles | Top Ten Articles | Previous Features | Site Map


For FREE email updates, subscribe to the Chinese Culture Newsletter


Past Issues


print
Printer Friendly
bookmark
Bookmark
tell friend
Tell a Friend
forum
Forum
email
Email Editor


Content copyright © 2014 by Caroline Baker. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Caroline Baker. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Inci Yilmazli for details.

g


g features
Owls in Chinese Culture

Chinese Valentine's Day

Book Review: Chinese Calligraphy Made Easy

Archives | Site Map

forum
Forum
email
Contact

Past Issues
memberscenter


vote
Poetry
Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Less than Monthly



BellaOnline on Facebook
g


| About BellaOnline | Privacy Policy | Advertising | Become an Editor |
Website copyright © 2014 Minerva WebWorks LLC. All rights reserved.


BellaOnline Editor