Model Mandarin: Quick-Change Artist


Top Tip

If you are new to Dongguan, or new to learning Chinese, it can be intimidating to speak up when with other foreigners who can already speak the language. While such situations are great for listening to the phrases used, which can then be explained after, make sure to get out on your own for a meal at a restaurant or a drink at the bar. Without an audience, you will be free to try out your Chinese without the pressure of others listening, and can avoid falling into the habit of letting your more fluent Chinese speaking friends speak for you.

Quick-Change Artist

You’d think the best place to learn Chinese would be in China, but what do you do when someone insists on speaking to you in English? This month we show a few tricks, some fair and some dirty, to keep the language practice focused on Chinese instead of English.

Level 1

Start off with some gentle hints.

a) // zài // xué zhōng wén I // am (currently) // learning Chinese

b) // yào // duō // liàn xí I // need // more // practice

c) zài // shuō // yí biàn again // say // one time

Level 2

If gentle hints aren’t working then it’s time to move to a more direct approach.

a) gēn wǒ // shuō // zhōng wén // ba With me // speak // Chinese // [suggestion]

b) // kě yǐ // bāng wǒ // xué // zhōng wén // ma? You // can // help me // learn // Chinese // ?

c) _____ // zěn me shuō? _____ // how to say

The sentence particle ‘ba’ in ‘a’ is added to the end of any statement to make it into a suggestion. Make sure to add the question particle ‘ma’ at the end of ‘b’ to turn the statement into a question. ‘C’ is a good sentence to know in general, but has the extra use of having the answer in Chinese, and hopefully the rest of the conversation.

Character Focus

Smart phones, devices and tablets bought in China and Hong Kong often display the date in Chinese, even when the language is set to English. Model Mandarin already covered days and month in the July issue, but if you find yourself forgetting what day it is (and we all do sometimes), learn how to check with the following characters.

xingqixīng qī – Week: 星 – xing. Sun 日 (rì) gives the meaning while and 生 (shēng) gives the sound, combining to mean ‘star.’ 期 – qi. Moon 月 (yuè) gives the meaning and the 其 (qí) give the sound to make the meaning ‘period of time.’

Take 星期 and add the number 1-6 for the days of the week. If you missed the numbers 1-10 from the September issue of Model Mandarin, here they are again.

  • 一 Monday (1)
  • 二 Tuesday (2)
  • 三 Wednesday (3)
  • 四 Thursday (4)
  • 五 Friday (5)
  • 六 Saturday (6)

Watch out for Sunday, as a different word is used here. In oral speech, the character for day, 天 (tiān), is added to make 星期天. However in the written form, the character for sun, 日 (rì), is used to make 星期日.