Penn Lauder CIBER: Chinese Survival Skills for Business Practitioners
Penn Lauder CIBER
Chinese Survival Skills for Business Practitioners
Prepared by Wan-wen Kuo
Lesson 1. Getting Started!
1. Shì: to be
Shì is a be-verb in Chinese. Unlike be-verbs in English, it’s used only to identify people or things.
2. Bù: no, not
Bù is the negative form of most verbs and adjectives. It changes to bú if a fourth-tone word follows.
3. Huì + verb: to know how to (verb)
4. Forms of address
In Chinese, last names always precede titles. For example, Mr. Wang is Wáng xiānsheng, Miss Li is Lǐ xiǎojiě, and Manager Chen is Chén jīngǐ.
Lesson 2. Are You an American?
Nín is often used to show respect when talking to people who are older, people with higher status, or people you meet for the first time.
Ma can be placed at the end of any statement to form a yes/no question.
Qǐngwèn can be used at the beginning of any question to soften the tone of speech.
Lesson 3. Meeting People
This expression is used to ask politely and formally the last name of a person you meet for the first time. Guì xìng is a fixed expression and can be used only to inquire.
The literal translation of xìng is “(someone’s) last name is…”; and jiào is “(someone’s) first name/full name is….” In Chinese, xìng and jiào are used as verbs. For example:
Note that last names are always stated before first names; so a Chinese person who wants to introduce him/herself formally will say Wǒ xìng (last name), jiào (first name) or Wǒ jiào (last name) (first name).
Ne is used as a question particle in this lesson. Unlike ma, ne is used in contextualized questions, i.e., when the context is provided in the conversation. For example:
Adjectives function as verbs in Chinese; therefore, shì is not necessary in a sentence like Wǒ hěn gāoxìng (“I’m very happy”). However, degree words such as “very,” “somewhat,” or “extremely” are necessary in the sentence. If you just want to say “I’m happy,” you can use the neutral degree word hěn (“very”) in the sentence. The degree of hěn is lighter than “very” in English.
The adverb yě is used frequently in Chinese. When modifying verbs/adjectives, it must to be placed before them. For example:
Lesson 4. Where Are You From?
When asking questions in Chinese, the word order remains the same as in a statement. If it’s a yes/no question, you only need to add ma at the end of the statement. If it’s a wh-question, just replace the information you ask about with the proper question word.
Xǐhuan is used to indicate a general preference or feelings of liking.
In the sentence Wǒ hěn xǐhuan Zhōngguó (I like China very much), you’ll find the correct word order in Chinese to be subject + adverb + verb + object.
Lesson 5. What Time Is It?
Most negation is bu + verb/adjective, except when yǒu follows the negation. The correct negation of yǒu is méi.
Fēicháng is a degree adverb. It’s similar to “very” in English.
Lesson 6. How Is Your Family?
Cuò means “wrong, incorrect” in English. Búcuò is a fixed expression for which there’s no positive form. Note: Wǒ hěn cuò is incorrect.
Dōu is a commonly used adverb. In Chinese, not all nouns use a suffix to indicate plural, so the use of dōu can indicate the noun in the sentence is not single.
Yào has several meanings. Two are explained and demonstrated in this lesson.
When used as an auxiliary verb (with another verb), it means “to be going to.” It indicates the person has the plan and the will to do something. For example:
When used as a regular verb, it means “to want (something).” You’ll probably hear it a lot when people order food in a restaurant.
When a sentence includes a time expression, the word order is as follows:
Subject + Time + (Adverb) + Verb + Object -or- Time + Subject + (Adverb) + Verb + Object
When a sentence contains both time and location, the word order is:
(Time) + Subject + Time + Location + Verb + Object
Lesson 7. Are You Free on Saturday?
De is used to indicate possession. For example:
When talking about family members, de can be dropped.
The Chinese express time from a more general time frame to a more specific time frame:
Year Month Date Day of the week Hour Minute
2008 nián 3 yuè 3 hào xīngqī sān sì diǎn shí fēn
The question word jǐ can be used to ask about date and time. Just replace the information needed with jǐ in a sentence.
When you want to know why someone asked you a certain question or tried to contact you, you can say yǒu shì ma. In this context, this expression is roughly equivalent to “why?” in English.
Lesson 8. What’s This?
In Chinese everything is countable, so a measure word is always necessary when a pronoun or a number precedes the noun. The choice of measure depends on the type of noun. For example:
This expression is rather formal and a little old-fashioned. It might be heard sometimes at formal events.
This expression literally means “don’t be polite.” It’s similar to “help yourself,” “make yourself at home,” “be my guest,” or “go ahead,” which are commonly used by a host when speaking to his/her guests.
Lesson 9. I Would Like One of These
When you’re not sure which measure word to use with a certain noun, you can try ge, as it’s one of the most common measure words.
Yìdiǎnr here is a tone softener that makes the question sound more polite.
When replying to a question, you can repeat the verb to indicate “yes.”
To answer the question Nǐ xǐhuan mǐfàn ma? (Do you like rice?), you can say, Xǐhuan, wǒ xǐhuan mǐfàn (Yes, I like rice) or Bù xǐhuan, wǒ bù xǐhuan mǐfàn (No, I don’t like rice).
Lesson 10. Do You Have an English Menu?
The A-not-A question form is another way to ask a yes/no question. Check the following examples:
When the noun that follows de is understood, it can be dropped. For example, Zhōngwén de cài dān (a Chinese menu) can be Zhōngwén de (the Chinese one) when the context is sufficient. It’s similar to the expression “the Chinese one” in English.
B: Wǒmen zhǐ yǒu Zhōngwén de. (We have only Chinese ones.)
Hǎo ba is a response to accept a situation that’s not the most desirable.
When hǎo is used in response to another person’s request, it means “okay, sure.”
Lesson 11. Is It Spicy?
When a verb is reduplicated, it means “give it a try.” In a request, it softens the speaker’s tone. Reduplicated verbs usually turn into a neutral tone.
Lái… is an informal and colloquial way to order food. It would be inappropriate to use it in a more upscale restaurant.
Hé is used less frequently than “and” in English. It’s used only to connect nouns, not sentences.
When a pronoun is used, a measure word is necessary if the item is single—for example, zhè ge rén (this person) or zhè bēi jiǔ (this glass of wine). If the noun is plural, xiē replaces the measure word—for example, zhè xiē rén (these people) or zhè xiē biǎo (these watches).
This expression is commonly used in conversation.
Lesson 12. Please Eat More!
Lái means “come on.” It can also be used as a pro-verb. When the context is sufficient, lái can be used as a pro-verb to replace the verb in the sentence and can convey the same meaning (see the first example).
6. Zài (adv.): more
Lesson 13. Let’s Toast!
1. Gǎnxiè: thanks
This is a formal term of xièxie.
2. Gěi + someone + verb: (verb) for (someone)
This is used as a proper response to other people’s compliments.
Lesson 14. Can I Go with You?
1. Qǐng + person + verb phrase: to invite someone to…, to treat someone…
Qǐng has several meanings and functions. Here it means “to invite someone to an occasion.”
In a sentence that mentions jīntiān wǒmen qǐng nǐ, qǐng means “to treat.”
2. Person + qǐngkè: one’s treat
In comparing qǐng and qǐngkè, qǐng is always used as the pattern of A qǐng B + verb phrase to specify (in the verb phrase) that A is treating B, whereas qǐngkè is used as (someone) qǐngkè, which does not convey that the person is treating or paying for his/her guest.
3. Zài + location: in/at (a place)
Word order: When location is added in a sentence, the correct word order is:
(Time) Subject + (Time) + Location + Verb + (Object)
A can be added to the end of a statement to indicate exclamation.
Kěyǐ is used in a request or when asking for permission. The negation form is bù kěyǐ.
Lesson 15. I Would Like to Leave a Message
1. Zài: to be present
Zài is used here as a verb.
2. Nǎwèi: who (polite term)
3. Le (particle)
Le indicates action completion. It can be placed at the end of a sentence or immediately after the action verb. When used in a sentence, it means an action is completed; it does not necessarily imply that the action was completed in the past. Le can be used for past, current, and future events. For example:
It can be used only in a sentence with action verbs, so it would be wrong to say Wǒ xǐhuan le tā (I liked him) because xǐhuan is not an action.
4. Máfán nín: please…
This is a polite expression before one asks for help.
5. A gēn B shuō: A tells B
Lesson 16. This Is a Token of My Regard
Kuàilè is often used in people’s wishes. For example:
Zhēn is one of the degree adverbs.
There’s no precise translation of bù hǎo yìsi in English. It’s used very commonly when you cause inconvenience to other people, especially when someone helped you or gave you a gift.
Lesson 17. It’s My Treat!
Zhēn usually carries strong emotion in statements in Chinese, so the sentences usually end with exclamation marks.
When hǎo precedes a sense verb, it constructs an adjective meaning “pleasant to….” For example, hǎochī means “delicious”; hǎokàn means “good looking.”
Chībǎo is a verb-complement type of verb. Bǎo means “full (in the stomach).”
Ba is a particle that makes assumption questions.
It’s common in China to address a waiter or waitress as fúwùyuán. It’s also common to address a waiter as xiānsheng or a waitress as xiǎojiě. Because the term xiǎojie could also refer to “prostitutes,” male customers generally do not use it to avoid any misunderstanding. However, it’s not inappropriate to address a waitress as xiǎojiě nowadays.
Saying mǎidān to a waiter/waitress is the equivalent of saying “check, please” in English. It can also be used as a verb. For example, Wǒ mǎidān (I will pay).
It’s common, but rather old-fashioned, for a birthday person to treat his/her friends to a meal. If you’re invited to a birthday party by a Chinese friend, you might anticipate this event and prepare some gifts in advance.
Bié is used in an imperative sentence to ask someone not to do something.
Gēn someone kāiwánxiào means “to kid with someone.”
Lesson 18. Shopping
1. Duō shǎo qián: how much money
Duō is a question word. It means “how.”
2. Piányí yìdiǎnr: a little cheaper
This expression is used a lot when bargaining. Yìdiǎnr means “a little more.”
3. Bù xíng: it doesn’t work, can’t
Without the negation, xíng itself means “sure” or “it’ll work.” Bù xíng is a direct and colloquial way to refuse or turn down an idea proposed by others. Bù xíng can also mean “no,” as “you’re not allowed to.” It’s similar to bù kěyǐ.
B: Bù xíng. (No.)
4. Hái: still, also
Hái is an adverb, so it should be placed before verbs.
5. Bié de + (noun): other ones
6. Jiù hǎo/jiù xíng: just fine
Jiù means “just.” Jiù hǎo and jiù xíng have very similar meanings. They are used to turn down an idea or proposal, but with a soft tone.
B: Zhè xiē jiù hǎo. (These are just fine.)
Lesson 19. I’m Going to Yueyang Road
Chinese word order always goes from the more general information to the more specific. Therefore, one’s address goes from the largest unit to the smallest (country, state/province, city, street, street section, number, floor).
Lesson 20. Asking for Directions
When you ask someone for directions, you’re likely to hear something like “go straight, then go past three intersections, and then turn left”; so it’s very helpful to remember the patterns above as well as the direction words (see the situation exercises in this lesson).
Nà is a noise similar to “well” or “then” in English. Sometimes it can also mean “in that case, then….” It’s placed at the very beginning of a sentence.
B: Nà wǒmen chī bié de ba! (Then let’s eat something else.)
©2009 by Penn Lauder CIBER