The Challenge of Learning Mandarin in Beijing!

On September 9, 2011, in Activities, China Travel Gossip, Cultural Experience, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing, especially if you plan to get good deals in the markets or take a few taxis it may be a good idea to learn some Mandarin phrases. Although staff in the higher end China hotels may speak some English, not much is spoken in many others which can be a […]

When you travel to Beijing, especially if you plan to get good deals in the markets or take a few taxis it may be a good idea to learn some Mandarin phrases. Although staff in the higher end China hotels may speak some English, not much is spoken in many others which can be a problem should you have an issue with your room.

 

The term ‘Mandarin’ is technically the name of the Beijing dialect group within the Chinese language as opposed to the actual language name. Officially the correct name for the language itself is ‘Modern Standard Chinese’, known locally as ‘Pǔtōnghuà’ (meaning the common dialect’), however most western countries refer to it simply as ‘Mandarin’.

 

There are over 800 million speakers of Mandarin throughout the world and it is one of the six official languages for the United Nations. It is not the easiest of languages to learn, mostly due to its tonal structure and use of characters rather than a standard alphabet.

 

Mandarin has four tones and these are what differentiate words that otherwise appear to have the same pronunciation. For example, the word ‘ma’ can mean mother, horse, hemp and scold dependant on the tone used to pronounce it, and in addition it is also used to make a statement into a question, for example:

Nǐ jiào Ceri (You are called Ceri)

Nǐ jiào Ceri ma? (Are you called Ceri?)

 

Tones in Mandarin

The four tones are known as:

  • 1st (high tone)
  • 2nd (high rising tone)
  • 3rd (low falling-rising tone)
  • 4th (high falling tone)

 

Understanding Pinyin

Pinyin was introduced in 1958 as a method of writing Chinese with the common Roman alphabet and is a helpful tool in learning how to pronounce Mandarin. Pinyin is used throughout most urban areas on signs and shops, however it is less common outside of the big cities and many native Chinese can’t understand it. Pinyin is a simple system to use providing you understand the rules of pronouncing letters, for example ‘c’ is pronounced like the ‘ts’ in ‘boats’ and ‘x’ like the ‘sh’ in ‘shoulder’.

 

It is still wise to carry a phrasebook around with you as a guide, and also they commonly have Chinese character definitions which is ideal if you plan to visit more rural locations. If you intend to stay in Beijing longer than a few days, there are also language schools located throughout the city, such as ‘That’s Mandarin’ which has locations in the main expat area of ‘Dongzhimen’ and the student district of ‘Wudaokou’.

 

There are also applications for the iphone and blackberry which you can download to help you with the language further, including a Chinese to English dictionary (for more information check out this page).

 

Here are some common phrases to get you started for when you travel to Beijing:

Hello Nǐ hǎo

Goodbye Zài Jiàn

Thanks Xiè xiè

Yes Shì

No Bùshì

Do you speak English? Nǐ huìshuō Yīngwén ma?

How much? Duō Shǎo?

One

Two Er

Too expensive Tàiguì le!

 

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Ultimate Iphone Apps for your trip to China: Part One

On September 7, 2011, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

For your upcoming China tour or holiday, you might be interested in some of the most useful Iphone Apps for your trip. China Travel can be daunting and might be confusing in the beginning, but don’t fret as There’s An App For That!   DianHua Dictionary (free) DianHua is an online Chinese to English dictionary […]

For your upcoming China tour or holiday, you might be interested in some of the most useful Iphone Apps for your trip. China Travel can be daunting and might be confusing in the beginning, but don’t fret as There’s An App For That!

 

DianHua Dictionary (free)

DianHua is an online Chinese to English dictionary application using CC-CEDICT and provides support for both Traditional and Simplified characters, alongside English and Mandarin Pinyin. You are also able to search by drawing characters, and can include or omit the tones. The application has copy and paste support and will also store your previously searched words allowing you to make flashcards for future use. You can also bookmark phrases and words together under categories to make it easier to find and memorise them.

 

There is also a separate number section allowing you to convert numbers and listen to them orally with the audio playback feature. If you wish to learn characters there is an enlarged view of both Traditional and Simplified characters available allowing you to study and trace over them with the stylus.

 


Additionally there is a feature to create your own flashcards using words you have been learning, and you can combine this with the writing feature. Both of these elements will tell you how well you are doing and there will be a percentage on display on screen to mark your progress.

 

Other available dictionary software applications include Qingwen, KTdict and Pleco.

 

XE Currency (free)

A simple yet vital application is XE Currency Convertor. You can convert the Chinese Renminbi into any other world currency with the click of a button, including multiple currencies at once. With an internet connection you will get a live current exchange rate result, but the app is also available offline to use as it stores data enabling you to view the previously loaded exchange rate.

 

Whats App (0.69p)

This application is ideal for those travelling anywhere outside of their home country, especially if you do not wish to be charged the extortionate fees for international text messaging. With an internet connection (or 3G signal) you can send unlimited text and picture messages to your automatically imported contact list, and it is also compatible with Android, Nokia and Blackberry phones enabling you to keep contact with friends and family who don’t use an Iphone.

 

You can also send audio files and video messages, and the recent update includes a group chat feature enabling you to talk to multiple contacts in one conversation.

 

Doodle Chinese (free)

From the makers of Doodle Jump comes Doodle Chinese, a fun animated style application to make picking up Mandarin phrases more enjoyable! Suitable for all ages the app builds up your language skills from basic words to scenario conversations. Quizzes and game based practices help you to memorise what you have understood.

 

Doodle Chinese uses a Native Chinese Speaker for all audio phrases, and comes with Pinyin and English translation for every phrase. You are able to switch between Pinyin and Chinese Characters whenever you wish, and can share your progress with your friends online.

 

Check back for Part Two of the Ultimate Iphone Apps for China travel!

 

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