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Mandarin Chinese - Lesson 3 - Introductions

中文 - 课数三 - 介绍

Zhōngwén - kè shù sān - jièshào

你好!Welcome to lesson three of Mandarin Chinese. In this lesson we are going to learn how to talk about ourselves along with a few common phrases you should know if you are visiting a Chinese-speaking area.

走吧!Let's go!

So, when you meet someone what do you usually say? "Hello, my name is X. I am from Y. etc. etc." right? Well now let's learn how to say all that stuff in Chinese!

Saying Your Name

The most common way to say hello in Chinese is "你好!(nǐ hǎo). You actually know one of the characters here already. Do you remember what "好" means? It means "good" and is a compound of "女" and "子". The other character "你" means "you" so literally "你好" is "you good".

To say your name we use the phrase "我叫" (wǒ jiào). "我" means "I/Me" and "叫" is the verb "to be called" so "我叫" means "I am called". Note that not all names are easily pronounced in Chinese, so I recommend you use this site to get yourself a Chinese name.

To ask someone what their name is, you say "你叫什么?" (nǐ jiào shénme?). What do you think the characters mean? You've learned the first two ("你" and "叫") so from context what do you think "什么" means?

If you guessed "what" then well done! One great method of learning how to understand a language is to try to understand new words from context. So to ask someone what their name is you literally say "You are called what?".

About names in Chinese culture

All Chinese names have a meaning. When saying their name, Chinese people begin with their family name (姓, xìng) followed by their given name (名, míng). So "John Smith" would become "Smith John".

Adults should always be addressed by their full name or their surname followed by a title. Some commonly used titles are:

  • 先生 (xiānshēng) - Mister/Mr.
  • 女士 (nǚshì) - Miss/Ms.
  • 太太 (tàitài) - Mrs.
  • 老师 (lǎoshī) - Teacher

For example: Mr. Wáng (Wáng = 王) would be "王先生"

Children and friends can be addressed by their first names, or if the person is a good friend or close family member you can call them by their nickname.

Saying Where You're From

In Chinese, you don't say you're "from" a place but rather you're a certain "country person". To say "I am Chinese" or "I am from China" you literally say "I am China person". Let's break it down:

  1. Say "I am" which is "我是" (wǒ shì) (是 is the verb "to be").

  2. Say the country you are from. Let's take China as an example which is "中国" (zhōng guó).

  3. Finally to say that you are that country person you add "人" (rén).

So, "I am Chinese" is "我是中国人".

Now using the template "我是。。。人". Try to say where you are from using the list below. A cool thing about Chinese is that many countries have unique meanings!

  • 美国 - USA (Měiguó) [lit. beautiful country]
  • 泰国 - Thailand (Tàiguó) [lit tranquil country]
  • 英国 - UK (Yīngguó) [lit brave country]
  • 法国 - France (Fǎguó) [lit legal country]
  • 德国 - Germany (Déguó) [lit virtuous country]
  • 中国 - China (Zhōngguó) [Middle Kingdom]^
  • 日本 - Japan (Rìběn) [lit. Origin of the Sun]^^

The countries are phonetic and have no hidden meaning

  • 爱尔兰 - Ireland (Ài'ěrlán)
  • 加拿大 - Canada (Jiānádà)
  • 澳大利亚 - Australia (Àodàlìyǎ)
  • 荷兰 - Netherlands (Hélán) [Comes from the word Holland]

^ Fun Fact No. 1 In ancient China, they believed China was the centre of the world and the further away you moved from the "Middle Kingdom" the less civilised the people were. Hence the name "中国"!

^^ Fun Fact No.2 Japan gets its name from the fact that the sun rose there first, then on China.

Phrases taught in this lesson:

  • 你好 - Hello (Nǐ hǎo)
  • 我叫。。。- My name is... (Wǒ jiào...)
  • 你叫什么? - What is your name? (Nǐ jiào shénme?)
  • 我是。。。人 - I am from... (Wǒ shì...rén)

Characters taught in this lesson:

  • 你 - You [singular] (Nǐ)
  • 我 - I/Me (Wǒ)
  • 叫 - [Verb] To be called (Jiào)
  • 什么 - What (Shénme)
  • 姓 - Surname/Family name (Xìng)
  • 名 - First name/Given name (Míng)
  • 先生 - Mr. (Xiānshēng)
  • 女士 - Ms. (Nǚshì)
  • 太太 - Mrs. (Tàitài)
  • 老师 - Teacher (Lǎoshī)
  • 是 - [Verb] To be (Shì)
  • 中国 - China (Zhōngguó)
  • 中 - Middle (Zhōng)
  • 国 - Kingdom/Country (Guó)
  • 美国 - USA (Měiguó)
  • 美 - Beautiful/Nice (Měi)
  • 泰国 - Thailand (Tàiguó)
  • 泰 - Traquil/Peaceful (Tài)
  • 英国 - UK (Yīngguó)
  • 英 - Brave (Yīng)
  • 法国 - France (Fǎguó)
  • 法 - Legal/Law (Fǎ)
  • 德国 - Germany (Déguó)
  • 德 - Virtuous (Dé)
  • 日本 - Japan (Rìběn)
  • 日 - Sun (Rì)
  • 本 - Foundation/Origin (Běn)
  • 爱尔兰 - Ireland (Ài'ěrlán)
  • 加拿大 - Canada (Jiānádà)
  • 澳大利亚 - Australia (Àodàlìyǎ)
  • 荷兰 - Netherlands (Hélán)

That's all for now!


Mùqián wéizhǐ jiù zhèyàngle!


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February 13, 2017



谢谢. 我爱这个! Would it be possible to do word order any time soon? O:


In the next lesson, we will talk about grammar (and an introduction to word order):

[Words are separated by a dash -]

  • Word order in Chinese is usually SVO (sometimes SOV or OSV. See below)

"我-吃-苹果" - I eat the apple [lit. I eat apple(s)] (wǒ chī píngguǒ)

  • Adverbs of time (e.g. today, now, next week, later) go before the verb

"我-现在-就-去" - I am going now [*lit. I now go ing] (wǒ xiànzài jiù qù)

  • Usually you state what you talk about first, then what you want to say about it. In my opinion this is one of the most important ways to sound natural. For example in English if someone asked "Have you read the hunger games?" instead of saying "I read the Hunger games" (我-读-飢餓-遊戲-了/wǒ dú jī'è yóuxì le) [a word for word translation] but a Chinese person is more likely to say something like "The hunger games, yeah I read it" (飢餓-遊戲, 我-读-了。/Jī'è yóuxì, wǒ dúle.)

  • The main problem with word order in Chinese is that because Chinese culture is so different, common everyday things are phrased differently not just everyday phrases but even just random things. For example to say "I am furious" you could technically say "我-是-狂怒" (wǒ shì kuángnù) ("狂怒" (kuángnù) means "furious btw), but a Chinese person is more likely to say "本人-火-大" (běnrén huǒ dà). "本人 " (běnrén) literally "foundation person" but is used to mean "one" (as in "one swims on ones holiday"). "火大" (huǒ dà) literally means "big fire"


我可以帮你吗? 我会说中文,和我妈妈是苏州人。


You don't '说' Chinese, you '讲' it.


true, however I CAN speak it. Writing and reading is good too. You got me there ;)


The words for the phrase "I am from" seem like they literally mean "I am (a)....... person". So to say "I am from America", you literally say "I am (an) American person", or 我是美国人. I just thought this was interesting to point out and this actually helps me remember the phrase better.

好工作!Thank you for posting this!


You are a beautiful country person ;)


You can say 'I am from', ‘我(是)从·(wherever)来的', and they basically have the same connotations and interchangeability as in English.


I learned the first part of fun fact 1 two days ago. Looking at the literal translations of the countries names is kinda funny. I notice the UK have a 艹 lol :D.


What's wrong with 艹 ?


If you know the individual parts it's usually very helpful in figuring out the meaning of the word. Sometimes it doesn't work..E.g bear + cat = panda lol...


These are good lessons! Do you speak Mandarin, then? I tried learning it ages ago and can now speak some basics.


Not fluently (definitely not XD). I speak it at a B1/B2 level


Ah. Doesn't matter if it's fluent or not. To speak even a little bit of Chinese is extremely impressive. Well done! :D


Danke schoen. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?


Etwas, ja. Aber jetzt, ich verbessere mein Spanisch. Sprechen Sie Spanish? Ich kann sehen, du tust den Baum.


Schade nein. Ich wuensche dass ich Spanische kannte sprechen, ich gehe zu klassen und meine Lehrerin so kann ich mein Franzoezisch und Spanisch verbessern. Sprechen Sie andere Sprachen?


Ich habe (auf Duolingo) Spanisch gelernt als du kannst sehen. In Schule, ich lerne Französisch und mein Französisch ist gut - aber nicht toll. Was Sprachen sprechen Sie? (Auch, entschuldigung wenn mein Deutsch ist nicht zu gut)


Ich habe dies nur gesehen. Ich spreche nur Englisch (meine Muttersprache), Franzoesisch, Deutsch, Ukrainisch und Bulgarisch aber ich will Spanisch, Italienisch und Polisch lernen. Und Sie?


"Nur"? Das ist toll! Ich spreche Englisch (auch als meine Muttersprache) fließend, gut Spanisch und etwas Deutsch und Franzoezisch. Vielleicht, könnte ich mein Deutsch verbesserien und ich werde etwas Türkisch lernen, weil wir zu Türkei gehen.

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