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Chinese Culture: Mandarin

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Mandarin Chinese 官话

Mandarin: Lonely Planet Phrasebook

The official language of the the People's Republic of China is Mandarin, or the dialect of the Beijing area, known as putonghua (common language or common dialect). Mandarin is widely spoken in the north east and south west of China.

China has several major dialects, the largest being Cantonese spoken in the south of the country around Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong.

The word "mandarin" derives from the Portuguese who gave this name to the official classes they encountered in China. Thus Mandarin is a dialect of the upper classes, which has been adopted for general use.

Chinese has a reputation as one of the world's hardest languages, and deservedly so, but it's not that hard to learn a few phrases. Being able to say even the simplest things will make your stay in China a whole lot more enjoyable, as well as delight the Beijingers you meet.

Insider's Guide To Beijing

The first thing to know about is the tones-even if you then never bother with them again.

1 - 'high and flat' mā - mother, jī - chicken
2 - Rising - m - numb, j - hurried
3 - Down then up - mă - horse, jĭ- how many?
4 - Falling - m - scold or insult, j - remember, make a note of

And now you've perfected those, here are a few of the phrases you might want to use:

Nĭhăo - hello

Xiie - thanks (X is pronounced as sy')

Zjian - bye

Cu z năr? - Where's the loo? (C is pronounced like the ts in pots)

W xiăng q Tiānānm I want to go to Tiananmen (q is pronounced 'ch')

W le I'm hungry

Zhōngu t bg le! China's great! (Zh is pronounced like the j in jam)

W b hu yg kuzi! I can't use chopsticks!

Yīngu du jiāy! Come on England!

Bit! Zkāi! Freak! Go away!

More useful Mandarin phrases

Books on Chinese