Beijing Made Easy

Directions, Distances, Orientation and Asking and Finding Your Way

I am years old W … su le …

Learn one more word you Nĭ and if you already know how to say to your Chinese friend:

I want to change room W xiăng hun fngjin

Learning the Chinese language is not nearly as difficult as people say it is. Seriously, 1.3 billion Chinese people speak it perfectly, they cant all be language geniuses can they?

Apart from for aeroplanes, you dont generally get return tickets in China.

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Extend a visa Ynchng qinzhng

Chinese grammar is remarkably simple for the beginner. Verbs do not conjugate, (ie its just go whoevers doing it I go, you go, he go etc), there are no genders, no the or a, and no tenses as such. On top of that, Chinese people almost never say please, so you dont need to worry about that, and theres rarely any need to distinguish between the polite and impolite ways of saying things.

Do you have Nĭ yu miyu

The hard part is the reading and writing. Speaking Chinese is not only not all that difficult, it can also be fun, and will make you masses of Chinese friends, and earn you much exaggerated praise, wherever you go.

Chinese people rarely refer to times in terms of something to the hour, but..

Whats the best way to … zu hăo zĕnme q

Are there messages for me? Yu miyu lihu

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Uo runs u and o together, u-o, sounds like wo

The inherent difficulty of memorising thousands of characters led theCCPto begin simplifying them in 1954. This helped increase literacy rates, but traditionalists argue the characters lost some of their meaning and beauty. Simplified Chinese characters certainly dont look as foreign and mysterious as the traditional characters.

A lot of people, (particularly Beijingers), add an er sound to the end of certain words, for example wn becomes wnr, and the er is represented by the character .

Where are you from Nĭ cng năr li ?

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Can I see the room? W nng knkan fngjin ma? ?

Most combinations make a little more sense though, e.g.

There are about 50,000 Chinese characters in existence only 2-3,000 are required to read a newspaper and two ( nn male and n female) to avoid embarrassing faux pas in China.

Almost all characters are made up of other characters, and by knowing those component characters, you can often have a guess at the meaning and/or pronunciation of new characters.

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I am from W cng li …

Fortunately, as with most things in Chinese, there is an easy way out for beginners. The measure word g can be used to refer to virtually anything, and though its not strictly correct Chinese, it will get your meaning across. So one (of something) is y g, two is liăng g, three is sn g.

I like the ee in Lee, or like the oo in took after c, ch, r, s, sh, z or zh

The Chinese language employs measure words when talking about a number of something. A bit like when people refer to 100 head of cattle, or two bunches of flowers, apart from that it is used in all situations, for example, in Chinese one would say two heads of cow and three flat-things of ticket. Different measure words are used according to the shape or use of the thing. Things held with the hand often use bă , and long thin things often used tio which literally means stick.

Zh like j in jam, but with the tongue curled back slightly Zhong, zha

Although we show you the Chinese character for the numbers here, in China the Arabic numerals we use in the West are far more widely used.

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e.g. W b i mĭfn I dont love rice

Another great thing about Chinese is, the way of saying things is rarely fancy and convoluted. The language is very straightforward and direct a bit like Chinese people.

If you cant make it any cheaper, I just wont buy it! B nng gng piny w ji byole! !

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Which way is North? Năge fngxing sh bĕi?

Which (number) platform? Jĭho zhnti? ?

Single/Return Ticket Dnchng/ fănwăng pio /

A like the a in rather in American English

Early Chinese characters were simply pictures of the things they represented. Over the time the pictures became more stylised, examples of this type of character are rn (person) and gu (tortoise). The latter is a traditional character not used in mainland China, but common in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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Beijingers usually know which direction is North, and the city is laid out in a grid pattern, so they may well tell you the way in terms of compass direction.

How much/many (money)? Du shăo (qin)? ()

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Yu Pucker your lips as if to whistle and say Yee, sounds like Y and the German

Economy room (shared toilet) Ptngfng

Chinese people speak thousands of mutually unintelligible dialects. In some areas (in the South East), you can cross a hill or a river from one village to the next, and the inhabitants will not be able to understand each other. The differences between the spoken languages of the South and the North are greater than those between Italian and Spanish.

How much is this/that? Zh/N ge dushăo qin? /

Are there larger sizes? Yu miyu d ho?

Pinyin (Pnyn ) is the Romanised system of representing Chinese pronunciation. There are a handful of new sounds to learn, but other than that its really very straightforward. Unlike in English, there is only one way to pronounce each word in pinyin.

Chinese characters represent meaning. They also have a pronunciation assigned to them, but this can vary with the Chinese dialects, whereas the meaning doesnt. This means that in theory Chinese characters could be used to represent any language in the world.

Two, when counting, or when part of a compound number (eg 22) is r (), but when referring to two of something, you say liăng ().

Can I have these clothes washed please? Kĕyĭ bă zh xi yfu xĭ gnjng ma? ?

Wonder at the Great Wall, be awed by the magnificent Forbidden City, drink in the scenery from a boat on the Summer Palaces Kunming Lake.

When is the next bus/train Xi ybn ch jĭdiăn ki?

The majority of todays characters consists of two components one pointing to the pronunciation, the other vaguely suggesting the meaning, for example the character . The right hand part, , is pronounced mă on its own, and suggests the pronunciation of the whole character, which is pronounced m. The left hand part is also a character in its own right, and it means female, hinting at the meaning of the new character, which means mother.

International call Guj dinhu

Pinyin Practiceis a nice site to help you practice pinyin, the best method of Romanising the Chinese language.

MDBGChinese dictionaryis one of the best of the many online Chinese dictionaries.

Are there vacancies? Yu miyu kng fngjin?

Shower (to shower) Ysh (xĭzăo) ()

Vowels are pronounced as detailed below:

I dont understand W tngbdng

Is there internet access here/in the room? Zhli/fngjinlĭ nng shng wăng ma? / ?

To make the statement into a question, you just add ma at the end.

Turn left/right Wăng zu/yu zhuăn /

How much per day/hour? Ytin/yg xiăosh dusha qin? /?

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Can you make it cheaper? Kĕyi piny y diăn ma?

How long does it take? Hu duchng shjin?

(Get) undergrond/subway (Zu) dtiĕ ()

I want to go to W xiăng q …

To make a sentence negative, you just add no/not, b in front of the verb

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Among the initials (ie, the starts of words), there are a few which are pronounced very differently from English:

Have you eaten? Nĭ chfnle ma? ? (Very Chinese greeting)

Where is … zi năr? …

Second of all, some people claim that they are tone deaf or not musical, and therefore wont be able to handle a tonal language. What about those 1.3billion Chinese people, are none of them tone deaf? It doesnt matter.

Add it all together to make W i mĭfn I love rice

Before the advent of pinyin the Wade-Giles system of Romanisation was used, and you still see it used sometimes in names and academia. Neither system is perfect, but pinyin now dominates the scene.

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Public telephone Gngyngdinhu

What time does it leave/arrive? Jĭdiăn ki/do /

Add an extra bed Ji chungwi (You will probably be given a camp bed)

Anti diarrhoea medicine Zhĭxiyo

Long distance bus station Chngt qch zhn

When is the first/last bus/train? Tu/m bn ch jĭdiăn ki? /

I want to get off (at) W xiăng (zi)xi ch (…)

Are you married? Nĭ jihnle ma?

Is there a hotel namecard? Yu miyu lguăn de mngpin (good for finding your way home)

e.g. W i mĭfn ma Do I love rice?

Historically, there were local versions of Mandarin, and you still here people referring to Shanghai Mandarin or Guangdong Mandarin, the accented Mandarin spoken by people in those regions.

Please write it down Kĕyĭ bă t xiĕxi li ma? ?

Compare the traditional character for tortoise: with the simplified version . Simplified Chinese characters were never adopted in Hong Kong or Taiwan, and you can still sometimes see traditional characters in mainland China where they are considered rather sophisticated.

Words in pinyin are made up of initials and finals, so for example, the word for hot, r is made up of the initial r and the final e.

So how do such disparate tongues come to be grouped as a single language? The answer is in the written language. Although its use varies from place to place, the way Chinese is written is similar throughout the country.

Most Chinese words end with a vowel sound. There are only two vowel endings in standard Mandarin, they are n and ng. They are the same as in English, eg ban and bang, but slightly more nasal.

In Chinese, you say the subject first, then the verb, then the object, the same as English. So for example,

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A word in the Chinese language can either be made up of one character or by combining two or more:

Although Chinese is a tonal language, there are actually only a small number of pronunciations in the language, in other words, there are less new sounds to learn than with other languages.

Do you speak English? Nĭ hu Yngwn ma?

Mandarin, which literally means the common language is the lingua franca of China. It is the language two people from different places use when they meet. Mandarin is used in schools and in the workplace, anyone who has been to school can speak it. It is the language of newsreaders, television adverts, business, and all official government functions. For your first trip to China, there is no point learning another Chinese language unless you plan to travel to remote border regions like Xinjiang and Tibet. Once youve learnt to recognise some characters, youll spot signs in government buildings which read Please speak Mandarin (Qĭng jiăng Ptnghu )- part of the governments drive to standardise Chinas languages.

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The Mandarin of today is based on the local language of Beijing (Bĕijnghu ).

The other thing people worry about with the Chinese language is Chinese characters there are so many of them and they look so strange that its rather daunting. Its true that there are thousands of different characters to learn but theyre not just random squiggles, theres a logic to them that makes them much easier to learn and remember.

How about Yuan … yun xng ma? …

Collect (reverse charges) call Dufng f qin dinhu

May I ask your name? Nn guxng?

People are usually put off by the fact that Chinese is a tonal language. Dont be. There are three things to remember about tones.

Also, although we dont have any concrete evidence to prove it, it seems that once you start learning characters, your brain somehow learns ways to learn them quicker which means that after youve learnt the first few hundred or so, the others start to come much more naturally.

First of all, you use tones in every sentence of English you ever speak. If you didnt youd sound like a robot. You know tones already.

Condom nqun to (lit safety sheath)

Does anyone speak English? Yumiyu hu Yngwn de? ?

Thirdly, thousands of foreigners, (including some very distinguished professors of Chinese), have been getting by for years without actually learning any tones at all, so dont worry about it.

Q like the ch in cheese Qing, qiao

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