TOP TIP: Learn in Chunks
Learning Chinese would be a lot easier if you could just take each newly learned Chinese word and swap it for English. Unfortunately, differences in grammar complicate matters, and the culturally different way the language is used makes things even harder. It is better to learn new language in chunks or phrases of three or four words collectively. This will help avoid piecing the language together incorrectly, and will also count as training toward speaking chains of multiple tones.
TALKING POINTS: Getting a Bargain
Whether you want to practice saying numbers in Chinese, show off how good your tones have become, or just don’t want to get ripped off when buying new ink for your printer, haggling over prices is an essential skill. For Chinese language learners it’s a great starting point; if things go badly you can always walk away, find somewhere new and try again. But even if you don’t think learning Chinese is for you, the following phrases could mean that going for the weekly vegetable shop is a far more enjoyable (and cheaper) experience.
Make sure to start off with ‘hello’ (nǐhǎo). This will help avoid the high prices often offered to foreigners thought to be new in town.
duō shao qián? – how much?
tài guì le – too expensive.
A good starting point. Let them know that the price they quoted is too high.
piányi diǎn – Make it cheaper
wǒ // yào // kǎo-lǜ – I // need // to think it over
Even if you have found what you want, by looking uninterested and taking some time to think, the extra time could result in the price going lower still.
wǒ // huì // jīng-cháng // lái – I // will // often // come
Many sellers make their money on volume rather than individual sales. If they think you will come back regularly, there is more chance they will give you a better price.
wǒ zǒu le – I’m going
The famous walk-away. Shake your head, say you are leaving and slowly move away. Often they will call you back and settle for the lower price. If not, it usually means they really can’t go lower with making a profit, so you can go back and take the offer knowing you haven’t been swindled.
wǒ// hěn// qióng le! méi-yǒu // qián! – I // very // poor! Haven’t got // money!
One good joke to use. Make sure to say with a smile, as they are unlikely to believe you!
yǒu-mei-yǒu // bǎo-zhèng? – Does it have // a guarantee?
Expect that the guarantee will only be applicable within China. For some products different parts will have different lengths of guarantee. Find out how long by using ‘duō Jiǔ?’ (how long?)
yǒu-mei-yǒu… – this means ‘do you have?’ and can be used before the following phrases to make sure you get exactly what you want.
qí-tāyán-sè – other colors
dàyi-diǎn / xiǎoyi-diǎn – bigger/smaller
CHARACTER FOCUS: A New Year
The Chinese New Year has had a number of names over the years, but the most common now is The Spring Festival – 春节
Spring – chūn.
Plants sprouting up under the sun 日.
Festival – jié.
The grass radical 艹 sits above the seal radical卩.
Chinese New Year is also often referred to as ‘guò nián.’ This is the combination of the character 过 which means ‘to experience’ or ‘go through’, and the character 年, year. Together the word means to ‘celebrate the new year’ and is frequently used in phrases such as ‘nǐguò-niánqù nǎ-lǐ?’ Where will you go for the new year?