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5000 Most Common Chinese Characters, Printable and Excel Spreadsheet

9 May

This site is of course now archival/effectively inactive, but I found this while trawling through a forum and had to share it. Credit to Ryan Kellog, an excellent human being, for the spreadsheet.

Kellog’s spreadsheet: 5000 Common Characters.

Printable PDF: First 5000. For the chars that have no descriptions – don’t freak out, there are maybe 10, all after 4750 – assume that they’re included because they found commonly in names.

加油!

Best Way To Learn Mandarin Vocab: Picture Flashcards

31 May

Mandarin Picture Flashcards

Well, maybe not the best way. Right after I published this for the first time, my favorite voice of cynicism scanned through the post and asked me how I could possibly know that this was the best method out there. Sigh. Fair enough, voice of cynicism. For the sake of accuracy, then, let’s just say that this is a really, really good way of learning new Mandarin vocab. Introducing… picture flashcards!

Instead of regular flashcards, which have English on one side and Mandarin (character, pinyin, etc.) on the other, picture flashcards use no English, only Mandarin. One side picture, the other side Mandarin. I’ve found it much easier to actually use the vocab I learn in this method, whether in writing or speaking. I have far fewer of those wait-I’m-translating pauses when I only associate the word with the concept that it’s meant to express, instead having to go through the middleman of my native English.

Below is an example of how I format mine. The benefit to this format is that I don’t need a double-side printer or scissor skills, as I can just fold the paper in half lengthwise. The drawback is that it uses twice as much paper. Go with your personal priorities, I suppose.

Mandarin Picture Flashcards

And this is a fairly conceptual example. If the vocab list is along the lines of “turtle”, the flashcards should take all of 10 minutes to create and print.

Once you have the formatting down, it doesn’t take all that long to create a nice set of picture flashcards. I’ll make my Word doc format available for download ASAP, but until then (or if you gasped in horror at my waste of resources), columns on Word or one of those online flashcard format gadgets work perfectly well.

I’m sure – as in 100% certain (do some of you already use this method?) – that I’m not the first one to have thought of this, but I haven’t yet been able to find any sites or microblogs working with this. Admittedly, the only Google searches I did were “mandarin picture based flashcards” and “image language learning flashcards”. Yeah. If any of you find a good resource, please share in the comments.

[Update: You can make these on Quizlet! Click the “Add images” box when you create a new set, and you can upload images on one side of the flashcard without text. Much, much faster than Word Docs.]

In my defense, I haven’t even logged in to WordPress for a couple of months, much less found the time to actually write anything. The joys of being a full-time student… To paraphrase the wisdom of Goku, “GGGGGGAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!”

My summer begins next Wednesday, so hopefully I’ll jump back into regular posting soon. If you try this strategy, let me know how it works for you. Hope all y’all have been keeping up your study – keep on truckin’!

(Note: This post was mis-updated (read: completely erased) more than once, and I was frustrated enough by the time I finished rewriting it that I just clicked Publish without any proofreading. Please tell me if you spot anything that needs edits.)

 

Back From Abroad With Assorted Random Vocabulary

20 Apr

I just got back from abroad this past week (sincere apologies about the lack of posts for the past month), and even though it was a fantastic trip in all other ways, my Chinese didn’t get a lot of attention. So to get back into the groove of things, here’s a list of some random vocabulary words that I’ve picked up recently.

When I said random, I meant random. I don’t even remember where I encountered most of these. Chocolate? Highways? Socialism? The California San Francisco Bay Area? It’s all here.

There will hopefully be a more cohesive entry by next week, but until then, enjoy.

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巧克力 (Qiaǒkēlì – Chocolate)

Hey, can’t hate on chocolate. I’ve heard this word spoken before, many times, but I’d never seen it written until last Saturday. Look at it. 巧克力. It just looks like chocolate.

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地道 (Dìdào – Authentic, genuine)

Also means tunnel. When 地道 is used as “authentic”, it can be used to describe language skill, with “authentic” meaning “native-like”. Maybe this describes you; it definitely doesn’t describe me. I know because my cousin laughed, “W o w!很 __!” when I used, “马马虎虎” in actual conversation. For those who don’t know this chengyu, take it from me, this is something rather shameful. Apparently no one actually uses that saying. *facepalm*

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无语。(Wúyǔ – No comment.)

Use exactly as you would in English.

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四肢发达,头脑简单。(Sìzhī fādá, tóunaǒ jiǎndān – When the four limbs use their strength, the mind becomes simple.)

This is one of the few chengyu that I understood right off the bat. Perhaps it’s not one of the most insightful chengyu, but it’s ancient wisdom nonetheless. Easy translation: when the body works hard physically, the mind becomes simple.

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高速公路 (Gaōsù gōnglù – Highway)

It means highway, and it sounds awesome out loud. Go ahead, give it a shot.

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加州旧金山湾区 (Jiāzhōu Jiùjīnshān Wānqū – California San Francisco Bay Area)

Have you ever wondered what your specific region (the East Coast, British Colombia, etc.) was in Chinese? I hadn’t. The thought just never came to my mind. Thanks to Weibo, though, I can now proudly plaster my Bay Area pride all over in Internet – in Mandarin.

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二百五 (Èrbáiwǔ – Fool, silly person, dumbass)

There’s probably a story behind this word, but I don’t know what it is. If you know, I’d love to hear it!

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巨 (jù – A lot, a great many (Northern slang))

This Northern term is basically a step up from 很. There weren’t 很多人 (a lot of people), there were 巨多人 (ridiculously many people). Besides with 多,  I most often hear it used with 大,  as in  盘子中有一 条巨大的鱼 (In the middle of the plate was a ridiculously large fish).

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全素斋 (Quánsùzhāi – Vegetarian restaurant)

素 means vegetarian in Mandarin, and a 全素斋 is a vegetarian restaurant. The Chinese don’t use a lot of dairy products and usually don’t use butter, so many vegetarian dishes are also vegan. If you visit China, however, you should bear in mind that 全素斋s are quite expensive.

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严格(Yángé – Strict)

I know more than one Chinese teacher who could be described as 严格.

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柠檬  (Níngméng – Lemon)

Like 巧克力, 粉丝 (noodles, but also fans), and countless others, 柠檬 is a transliteration from English. Unlike some other transliterated words, however, I think this one is an improvement on the original. Say 柠檬 out loud. Is it just me, or can you actually hear the citrus zest?

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中国共产党 (Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng – The Chinese Communist Party / The Communist Party of China)

Believe it or not, I only learned this word a couple of weeks ago. Definitely a good term to know. And continuing with the political theme, we have –

资本主义(Zīběnzhǔyì – Capitalism)

and

社会主义 (Shèhuìzhǔyì – Socialism).

Note to self: write a post on political terms. Somehow, you just don’t pick those up through daily conversation.

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Last but not least:

吃货 (Chīhuò – Foodie)

Let me reveal a cultural phenomenon that will shock nobody at all: a lot of Chinese self-identify as 吃货.

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And on a different note, the Spanish word for “blender” is “licuadora”. Liquidator. Doesn’t that sound much better than a blender? Say it out loud – licuadora.

Nice to be back and posting – hope you’ve all had a nice April so far. Have a great week, everyone!

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Vocab from this week:

巧克力 (Qiaǒkēlì – Chocolate)

__ (Dīdào – Literate, well-spoken)

无语。(Wúyǔ – No comment.)

四肢发达,头脑简单。(Sìzhī fādá, tóunaǒ jiǎndān – When the four limbs use their strength, the mind becomes simple.)

高速公路 (Gaōsù gōnglù – Highway)

加州旧金山湾区 (Jiāzhōu Jiùjīnshān Wānqū – California San Francisco Bay Area)

二百五 (Èrbáiwǔ – Fool, silly person, dumb ass)

巨 (jù – A lot, a great many (Northern slang))

全素斋 (Quánsùzhāi – Vegetarian restaurant)

人不可有傲气,但不可无傲骨。(Rén bùkě yǒu aòqì, dàn bùkě wú aògǔ. – A person cannot have arrogance, but cannot be without inner steel.)

严格(Yángé – Strict)

柠檬  (Níngméng – Lemon)

中国共产党 (Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng – The Chinese Communist Party / The Communist Party of China)

资本主义(Zīběnzhǔyì – Capitalism)

社会主义 (Shèhuìzhǔyì – Socialism)

吃货 (Chīhuò – Foodie)

Weekly Vocab: Often-Used Greetings and Goodbyes

10 Feb

Greetings and goodbyes – definite necessities. I’m assuming that everyone already knows 你好,你好吗,早上好,下午好, 很高兴认识你,and 再见. If you need a refresher, check out this Wikibooks summary, which also covers several of the greetings in this post.

Those are all great, and most people actually do use all of those on a daily basis. However, just like in English (Ex. How have you been? Catch you later. What’s up, my homie?), Chinese has many more options for greeting and saying goodbye to people. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common and often-used ones.

(Just a note: after a long deliberative process, I decided not to include very formal/professional greetings on here. There are a good number of them, but no worries, I will include them in an upcoming business lingo post.)

mandarin greetings and goodbyes

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你怎么样? - Nǐ zěnmeyàng? - What’s up?

I’ve seen this translated as “How are you?”, which is completely correct, but I’ve found that I use it most as “What’s up?” Unless you add something to it (see “你最近怎么样?”a little later), it could be used just as a rhetorical question-greeting.

It’s casual, it’s easy to remember, and it does imply that you want to hear what’s up with the other person’s life. It’s a good one to use for starting conversations. Definitely stick it in your daily repertoire.

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好久不见。- Hǎojǐubùjìan. - Long time no see.

I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. You could follow it with –

最近如何?/ 最近怎么样?-Zùijìn rúhé? / Zùijìn zěnme yàng? - How have you been recently?

This is one that you should use for someone you haven’t seen in a while. Rather than asking for “What’s up?”, it’s asking for an update on life since you last saw them.  最近如何?is either more formal or more teasingly formal, depending on your tone. 最近怎么样? is the fun, all-purpose version.

File:HK Chinese New Year Greeting lighting word 03 發 Fat Jan-2012.jpg   Image thanks to Limcheelian at the Wikimedia Commons.

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你吃了吗?- Nǐ chī le ma? -(Literally) Have you eaten yet?

😀 This greeting is just awesome. “你吃了吗?” literally means “Have you eaten?”, but it’s used just as a casual, awesome greeting. The correct response is a quick “吃了!” or “没吃呢!” (it’s effectively rhetorical; they don’t actually care), followed by a change in topic.

For example:

Me: 你吃了吗?

You: 吃了! 我刚去了银行 (yínháng – bank), 现在去商场 (shāngchǎng – supermarket)。你怎么样?

Me: 我也…

So you see, it’s just a conversational greeting. It tends to be used more by the older generations, so especially if you’re in an urban area it might seem a bit out of place.

But that’s OK, because this greeting has given rise to sarcastic urban derivatives like –

你离了吗?(Nǐ lí le ma? – Have you divorced?)

and

你堵了吗?(Nǐ dǔ le ma? – Have you been stuck in traffic?)

To use a bit of Internet slang, lololololololololol! We can thank China’s rising divorce rate and terrible traffic conditions (in cities like Beijing) for popularizing these.

It’s totally on my bucket list to casually use one.

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你在忙什么呢?-  Nǐ zài máng shénme ne? -What are you busy doing? 

You might not think that this deserves to be on an “Often-Used” list, but I’ve found that I use it all the time. This is a greeting to use for someone that looks like they’re on a mission, after greeting them with 你好 or something. Good candidates would be a friend you meet on the street, a friendly coworker on a computer, or a roommate writing feverishly in a journal.

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您好。/您好吗? - Nín hǎo. /Nín hǎo ma? - (Formal) Hello. / How are you?

The more formal equivalent of the “你” versions. Use for your boss, teacher, or anyone else that you’d like to show some respect towards.

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The next few translate almost perfectly into English, so I won’t give any explanation for them. Feel free to comment with any questions.

晚上好。- Wǎnshang hǎo. - Good evening.

晚安。- Wǎn ān. - Good night.

明天见。- Míngtiān jiàn. - See you tomorrow.

拜拜。- Bāibai. - Bye-bye. (<- Pretty great, right? Really common.)

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回头见。- Huítóu jiàn. - See you soon.

OK, this one gets an explanation. “回头见,” is used as a cross between “See you soon,” and “See you around.” I’m fairly positive it’s used all over Northern China (Update: It is.), but it’s definitely used all the time in Beijing. If you ever feel like 再见 is getting old, you can try this one.

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On another note, Happy New Year! In this new year, may 10,000 things go as you want you them to! As the Chinese New Year spirit is still in the air, let’s talk about a few New Year’s greetings.

File:Chinese new year copenhagen 2006.JPG

新年快乐 – Xīnniánkuàilè – Happy New Year!

I think this one’s pretty clear cut.

新春快乐 – Xīnchūnkùailè – Happy New Spring!

I’m hearing this one more and more, especially in the States. I’m not certain about this, but I have a feeling that it’s to differentiate Chinese New Year with the Jan 1st New Year. Because “Chinese New Year” is mostly referred to as 春节 (Chūnjíe – Spring Holiday), 新春快乐 makes a lot of sense.

万事如意 – Wànshì rúyì – (Lit) May 10,000 things go as you want you them to!

Basically just means good luck in the new year. For some reason, I personally really like this one.

恭喜发财 – Gōngxǐfācái – Congratulations, and get rich!

This one is used interchangeably with Happy New Year – it wishes the person best of luck in the new year.

年年有鱼 – Níannían yǒu yú – Have fish every year!

This also wishes the person luck. The saying is (predictably enough) based on fishermen. You wish the person many fish this year and every year after.

In my experience, these New Year’s greetings tend to be said in pairs. (Besides 新年快乐 and 新春快乐 – those can go by themselves.) For example, I tend to hear , ”恭喜发财, 年年有鱼!“ more than one or the other by itself. Just a note of curiosity; might just be me.

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Now that you know how to greet and take leave of people like a fluent speaker, practice and try it! Did I miss any that you think I should add? If you think of another greeting or goodbye, please tell us in the comments.

Best of luck, 新春快乐,  and I’ll be back next Saturday.

Vocab from this list:

  • 你怎么样? - Nǐ zěnmeyàng? - What’s up?
  • 好久不见。- Hǎojǐubùjìan. - Long time no see.
  • 最近如何?-Zùijìn rúhé? - How have you been recently?
  • 最近怎么样?-Zùijìn zěnme yàng? - How have you been recently?
  • 你吃了吗?- Nǐ chī le ma? -(Literally) Have you eaten yet?
  • 你离了吗?- Nǐ lí le ma? - (Literally) Have you divorced?
  • 你堵了吗?- Nǐ dǔ le ma? - (Literally) Have you been stuck in traffic?
  • 你在忙什么呢?-  Nǐ zài gàn shénme ne? -What are you busy doing?
  • 您好。 - Nín hǎo. - (Formal) Hello.
  • 您好吗?- Nín hǎo ma? -(Formal) How are you?
  • 晚上好。- Wǎnshang hǎo. - Good evening.
  • 晚安。- Wǎn ān. - Good night.
  • 明天见。- Míngtiān jiàn. - See you tomorrow.
  • 拜拜。- Bāibai. - Bye-bye.
  • 回头见。- Huítóu jiàn. - See you soon.
  • 新年快乐 – Xīnniánkuàilè – Happy New Year!
  • 新春快乐 – Xīnchūnkùailè – Happy New Spring!
  • 春节 - Chūnjíe – Spring Holiday/Chinese New Year
  • 万事如意 – Wànshì rúyì – May 10,000 things go as you want you them to!
  • 恭喜发财 – Gōngxǐfācái – Congratulations, and get rich!
  • 年年有鱼 – Níannían yǒu yú – Have fish every year!

Weekly target: Introduce and describe yourself

4 Feb

Here’s something we can hopefully agree on: if you want to meet new people, you’re probably going to have to introduce yourself and answer a few basic questions. Whether it’s a Chinese friend, a family member, or maybe a random stranger, introductions will come in handy sooner rather than later. After this lesson, we should be able to describe ourselves and carry on short introductory dialogue in perfect Mandarin. Get excited!

Here’s what I want to be able to say about myself and ask about others. The words that are underlined are the ones that you’ll probably have to replace.

Nice to meet you. I’m Rene Ding. I am a student. I’m from America, from the state of California. I’m an American-born Chinese, and my family is from Beijing. I started formally learning Chinese last yearMy Chinese is not very good – I’m still in a learning stage. It was very nice to meet you. Good-bye, see you again some time.

Pretend that’s a two-way conversation with questions, and I’d say that’s a pretty solid base.

Let’s jump straight to it.

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Hello, nice to meet you.

你好,很高兴认识你。

Nǐ hǎo, hěn gāoxìn rènshì nǐ. 

Very handy to know. There are several variations off of “nice to meet you”, but this is the most commonly used one. You can use it in meeting everyone from a friend’s friend to a casual business acquaintance.

File:Handskakning.png

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What do you do?/What is your job? I am a student.

什么工作? 我是学生

shì zùo shénme gōngzùo? Wǒ shì xúeshéng.

It sounds a little strange in a word-by-word translation (which is of course normal), but this is the most often-used, casual version of this question and response. Of course there are variations, but I chose this one because you can use it in the broadest range of situations. “I am (profession here),” is quite correct grammatically in Chinese.

And if you’re not a student, here are a few other common professions that we should all know. (If yours isn’t listed, sorry!)

Doctor – 医生 – yīshēng

Farmer – 农民 – nóngmín

Lawyer – 律师 – lǜshī

Businessman – 商人 – shāngrén (Bear in mind that you’d usually also say which company you belong to.)

Secretary -秘书 – mìshū

And last but not least:

Blogger – 博客 – bókè

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Where are you from? I’m from America, from the state of California.

你是从哪里/哪儿来的? 我从美国来的,从加州来的。

Nǐ shì cóng nǎlǐ / nǎer lái de? Wǒ cóng měigúo lái de, cóng jīazhōu lái de.

哪里 is more formal/written, while 哪儿 is more casual or spoken. I would say 哪儿, but that might be because I’m surrounded by Beijingers.

Some other countries to know:

China – 中国 – zhōnggúo

England – 英国- yīnggúo

Australia – 澳大利亚 – àodàlìyà

India – 印度 – yìndù

Sorry for neglecting you, Europe (欧洲 – ōuzhōu), but I had to keep it short and this blog is in English. Try ThePureLanguage.com if you need a translator!

File:World Map.jpg

(Image thanks to DATABASE at the Wikimedia Commons.)

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What country are you from? / Are you American? I’m Chinese-American.

你是哪国人? / 你是美国人吗? 我是美国生的中国人 / 汉人

Nǐ shì nǎ gúo rén? / Nǐ shì měigúo rén ma? Wǒ shì zhōnggǔo shēngde měigúorén / hànrén.

Any questions? Strictly speaking, “你是哪国人?”actually means “Which country’s people are you?”, but the meaning is spot-on. I added the option of “汉人” in case the question is actually something like, “What race are you? ( I get that question a lot, though I’m 100% Han. Apparently I don’t look it?) Most urban Chinese will also understand “ABC”.

For nationality, the general rule is to just stick after the name of your country. For example, Indian would be 印度 + 人 =  印度人。

Ethnicity is a little more complex. For now, let’s just stick to the basics.

Caucasian – 白人 – báirén

Literally means “white people.” You shouldn’t often need to state this unless you’re Caucasian and don’t look it, or are just really tan.

Han – 汉人 – hànrén  

The ethnic term for the “standard” Chinese. Just a note: if you don’t know what kind of Chinese you are, the probability is extremely high that you’re Han.

European – 欧洲人 – ōuzhōurén

This does not mean “white/Caucasian”, this means “European”. As in you’re personally from Europe. Just so we’re clear; I’ve seen some misunderstandings arise from misuse of this term.

African/Black – 黑人 – hēirén  

Literally means “black people”, and seems to be mostly interpreted as “African” outside of America. If you’re African-American, that would be 非裔美国人 – fēi yì měiguórén.

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My family is from Beijing.

我的家庭是北京人

Wō dè jīatíng shì Běijīng rén.

I speak Chinese with a bit of a Beijing accent, so I do occasionally need this response. 北京人 could be replaced with any other Chinese region or city (or actually any in general). As with nationalities, just stick 人 after the name of the region or city. For example, if your family is from Fújìan, they could be called 福建人 (fújìanrén).

File:Beijing traffic jam.JPG

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I began to formally study Chinese last year.

去年开始正式学中文/汉语。

 Wǒ qùnían kāishì zhèngshi xúe zhōngwén / hànyǔ.

汉语 and 中文 are officially interchangeable, but I feel like 汉语 might be said just a smidgen more. Might just be me. In any case, you should be perfectly fine with either of those.

Two years ago would be 两年前 - lǐang nían qían. Follow the pattern for any amount of years greater than one. For example, 70 years ago (that would be true persistence!) would be 七十年前 – qīshí nían qían.

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My Chinese skill is not very good – I’m still in a learning stage.

我的中文水平还不高,还是在学习阶段中。

Wǒ de zhōngwén shǔepíng hái bùgāo, hái shì zài xúexí jiēduàn zhōng.

Ok, that’s not at all a word for word translation, but it definitely captures the idea. It often comes in handy to be able to say that your Chinese isn’t perfect yet. Here’s the vocabulary from this one: 水平 – shǔepíng – level, 阶段 – jiēduàn – stage.

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It was very nice to meet you. Good-bye, see you again some time.

很高兴认识你。再见,以后见。

Hěn gāoxìn rènshì nǐ. Zàijìan, yǐhòu jìan.

While 再见 literally means, “We’ll see each other again,” it doesn’t have the same implication that you actually want to see the person again. If that’s the message you want to convey, go with 以后见。

😀 Feeling successful from getting through that? Remember, I had to type it. 😀

Yeah, there’s a lot of vocab here, but it should mostly be review. There’s a whole week! My plan is now to post a weekly vocab list every Sunday or early Monday, and something grammatical every Friday or early Saturday. Like the rebel I am, though, I might switch it up sometimes.

Thanks for reading, best of luck this week!

Vocab from this post:

  • Very nice to meet you. – 很高兴认识你。- Hěn gāoxìn rènshì nǐ.
  • What is your job? – 你是做什么工作?- Nǐ shì zùo shénme gōngzùo?
  •  I am a student. – 我是学生。- Wǒ shì xúeshéng.
  • Doctor – 医生 – yīshēng
  • Farmer – 农民 – nóngmín
  • Lawyer – 律师 – lǜshī
  • Businessman – 商人 – shāngrén
  • Secretary -秘书 – mìshū
  • Blogger – 博客 – bōkè
  • Where are you from? – 你是从哪里/哪儿来的?- Nǐ shì cóng nǎlǐ / nǎer lái de?
  •  I’m from America. – 我从美国来的. – Wǒ cóng měigúo lái de.
  • China – 中国 – zhōnggúo
  • England – 英国 – yīnggúo
  • Australia – 澳大利亚 – àodàlìyà
  • India – 印度 – yìndù
  • Europe – 欧洲 – ōuzhōu
  • What country are you from? – 你是哪国人?- Nǐ shì nǎ gúo rén?
  • Are you American? – 你是美国人吗?- Nǐ shì měigúo rén ma?
  • I’m Chinese-American. – 我是美国生的中国人 / 汉人。- Wǒ shì zhōnggǔo shēngde měigúorén / hànrén.
  • Caucasian – 白人 – báirén
  • Han – 汉人 – hànrén
  • European – 欧洲人 – ōuzhōurén
  • African/Black – 黑人 – hēirén
  • My family is from Beijing. – 我的家庭是北京人。- Wō dè jīatíng shì Běijīng rén.
  • I began to formally study Chinese last year. – 我去年开始正式学中文/汉语。- Wǒ qùnían kāishì xúe zhōngwén / hànyǔ.
  • Two years ago – 两年前 - lǐang nían qían
  • My Chinese skill is not very good. – 我的中文水平还不高. – Wǒ de zhōngwén shǔepíng hái bùgāo,
  • I’m still in a learning stage. 还是在学习阶段中. Hái shì zài xúexí jiēduàn zhōng.
  • Good-bye, see you again some time. – 再见,以后见。- Zàijìan, yǐhòu jìan.