10 Basic Mandarin Phrases to Get You Going
1. 你好 (Nǐhǎo) = Hello
Pronounced “nee how”, this is one of the most important words to learn in any language, as It’s usually the first thing we say to both strangers and friends.
2. 早上好 (Zǎoshang hǎo) = Good Morning
Start off the morning right! This important and polite phrase is pronounced “Dzow shung haow”. According to Travel and Leisure, it’s also acceptable to simply say Zao (Dzow) to greet people in the morning.
3. 你好吗 (Nǐhǎo ma?) = How are you?
Once you’ve mastered ‘hello’ then you already know half of this phrase: nee haow ma. If someone asks you this question, you can respond with “很好-Hěn hǎo” (Hun haow) which means good or “不太好-Bù tài hǎo” (Boo tye haow), which means not so good.
4. 你叫什么名字 (Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?) = What’s your name?
Want to get to know somebody better? This is an informal way of asking someone their name. Say “Nee jyaow shun muh ming dzrr” to your new friend!
5. 我叫… (Wǒ jiào… ) = My name is…
If your new friend asks you your name, you can respond with “Wor jyaow” and then add your name at the end.
6. 很高兴认识你 (Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ) = Nice to meet you
Feeling like a social butterfly? You can say “Hun gaow shing run shrr nee” to someone you just met to let them know you’ve enjoyed talking with them.
7. 请 (Qǐng) & 谢谢 (Xièxiè!) = Thank you
Please and thank you are the magic words in any language. If you want to thank your host for a nice meal or let your friend know you appreciate them, pronounce xièxiè like shyeah shyeah.
8 下次见 (Xiàcì jiàn!) = See you next time!
You’ve just met somebody and you can’t wait to see them again. To let them know, say Xiàcì jiàn, pronounced:shyah tsrr jyen.
9. 我要去医院 (Wǒ yào qù yīyuàn) = I need to go to the hospital
While nobody wants to have to use this phrase it can help you get out of difficult situations and assist you when you need it most. If you are ill or injured and need to tell others, say Wǒ yào qù yīyuàn, pronounced: Wor yaow choo yee yoo-an.
10. 不好意思 (Bù hǎoyìsi) = Excuse me, sorry
If you’ve just bumped into someone or need to quickly move through a crowd, don’t panic! it’s perfectly okay to say, “Boo haow yee srr”.
Pronunciation Tips: Getting Started
Tone and inflection are highly important when speaking a foreign language, as it helps people understand you and will give you a leg-up when chatting with locals. Spoken Mandarin is a very tonal language.
- For example, let’s look at the phrase for thank you which is xièxiè. You’re supposed to say the first syllable in the 4th tone.
- In the 4th tone, your voice should go from high to low. The 4th tone is known as the falling tone mà. The second syllable is uttered and not stressed.
There are actually 5 tones you’ll have to learn and when to use them. One way to help you learn tones is by checking out some tv shows in Mandarin. While listening is a crucial part of language acquisition, eventually you’ve got to get talking.
Level up your Mandarin
A great way to master your pronunciation and build confidence in your speaking abilities is to hire a language tutor. A language tutor can help you understand all the nuances of a language, and walk you through each of the 5 tones in Mandarin. With a tutor, you’ll have the opportunity to speak and practice the various tones while getting real-time feedback and corrections.
Getting direct feedback will help you assess your errors faster and let you know what elements you need to work on most. Having trouble finding the right tutor for you? Try TruFluency! At TruFluency, we fully immerse our students in the target language to boost their confidence and help them speak like a local. If you want to start speaking mandarin and are ready to engage in full-immersion conversation classes with a trained professional, click HERE.