Model Mandarin: Cold Drink?

Model MandarinTop Tip

As a learner of Chinese, you are not alone. Some estimates count 30 million foreign learners of Chinese. Whether accorate or not, a huge number of people are going through the same thing you are, and some have already gotten to the other side. Go online and get help, aside from the many paid Web sites offering to help your fluency, there are a growing number of free to join communities and blogs. To get started, try any of these and see where it takes you:

Cold Drink?

No one likes a warm beer, or too much ice in their screwdriver. When going for a drink, learn to get exactly what you want with the following language.

bēi – a glass

píng – a bottle

guàn – can

is a measure word used when counting nouns, for example when counting people (sìgè rén– four people). You can use it anywhere with a high chance of being understood, but there are in fact many different measure words used depending on what type of object is being described. While ‘gè’ will get you through most situations, the above measure words make things a little clearer. Use them after the number but before the noun.

gěi wǒ // yìbēi // kělè – give me // one glass // Coke

Being polite in Chinese works a little differently than in English. After getting the attention of a waiter, it is normal to simply give instructions. If this is a little too blunt for your taste try adding ‘bāngwǒ – help me’ at the start of your sentence. Think of it as the equivalent of saying ‘Can you…’ in English.

bāng wǒ // lái // liǎng píng // píjiǔ – help me // bring // two bottles // beer

In this case, lái can be taken to mean ‘bring’, although it is more commonly used as the verb ‘to come.’ This alternate use is very common, and can be said when asking for another drink.

zàilái // yìbēi – again bring // one glass

The zài here should not be confused with the other commonly used zài which means ‘located at,’ they may share the same pinyin and tone but they are completely different characters and meanings.

bīng – ice

For asking for ice, less ice, or none at all use the following phrases.

jiā bīng – add ice

shǎo bīng – less ice

búyào bīngkuài – don’t want ice

In the last sentence, it is necessary to say kuài – piece (or in this case, ‘cube’) as it may get confused with the other use of bīng, asking for something that is cold. When a cold bottle of beer is what you are really looking for, use this:

wǒ yào // bīng de – I want // chilled

Character Focus

Traveling around Guangdong Province can be difficult even without the added hurdle of some places having signs only in Chinese. Avoid going to the wrong airport by learning the characters for Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Shenzhen 深圳

Shēn – This takes the largely unused 罙, meaning deep, and adds the water radical 氵for an even clearer meaning of ‘deep,’ as in depth of water or something profound. Zhèn – This combines the characters for earth 土 and river to give a meaning of a ditch, maybe dug into the ground to act as drainage from a field of crops.

Guangzhou 广州

Guǎng – A common radical meaning wide, to spread or numerous. Zhōu – Simply meaning administrative division or state, but when this character is combined with the water character as 洲, it keeps the same pronunciation but takes the meaning of continent.