Useful Chinese Phrases

Chinese is a very difficult language to learn. There are five different tones a spoken sound can have, resulting in five words with completely different meanings. For example, depending on what tone you say the sound “mah”, the resultant word could be either “mother” or “horse” (or another meaning). That is a reason Chinese sounds so musical and often cacophonous.

The written language, of course, is even more difficult to learn. Unlike western languages, there is no alphabet, and each written word takes the form of an arbitrary character. So to write 1000 different words, you need to memorize how to write 1000 different characters.

That all said, here are a few phrases that may come in handy (ask a Chinese friend how to say them correctly, because I don’t know the proper tone for them):

  • nee how: how are you
  • sheh sheh: thank you
  • boo shih: am not
  • boo yow: will not
  • ching: please

Unfortunately, that’s about all of the Chinese I learned/used.

On the "left" side of the Great Wall at Badaling, I was constantly chased by people selling memorabilia (like this dude with a book) despite me pretending to only speak Spanish.  Poor Felix!

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