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More on Learning Chinese

I’m happy to report that, at long last, I’m making some progress in learning Chinese. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been surprised at how difficult the language is to pick up. But now, after perhaps 10 hours in the classroom learning the tones, Jill and I have moved on to actually speaking words and phrases (!!). Here’re a few.

This should give you a sense of 1) how hard the words are to pronounce, and 2) how the pinyin (the romanization of the Chinese words) isn’t always pronounced the way it’s written. Note that I’m unable to reproduce, here, the tone marks that accompany these words. Each word has one or two or more marks that resemble accent marks; they indicate the lilt with which the words are said.

teacher: laoshi
hello: nihao (“nee-how”
you (sing.): ni (“nee”)
you (pl.): nimen
I/me: wo (“whoa”)
we/us: women (“whoa-men”)
child/children: haizi (“hi-zi”)
things/possessions: dongxi
here: zheli (“jay-li”)
I’m sorry: duibuqi (“dwee-bu-chee”)
beer: pijiu (“pee-joe”)
how much does it cost?: duoshaoqian (“dwo-shao-chee-an”)
notebook: bijiben (“bee-gee-bun”)
pen: yuanzibi (“you-an-zi-bee”)
bathroom: xishoujian (“zee-sho-chee-an”)
1: yi (“yee”)
2: er
3: san
4: si (“s”)
5: wu (“woo”)
6: liu (“lio”
7: qi (“chee”)
8: ba
9: jiu (“jio”)
10: shi (“sh”)

By Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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