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Lesson Transcript

Victor:I’m Victor.
Amber: And I’m Amber. Welcome back ChineseClass101.com.
Victor: Today we have the Absolute Beginner Series, Season 1 Lesson 11.
Amber: Yes. And these next few lessons are going to teach us some essentials that you will need when you get to China right away. And today’s lesson is entitled, “Are You a Foreigner?”
Victor: “Are You a Foreigner,” in the true Chinese fashion.
Amber: And the thing is you might now realize how high frequency this conversation is actually going to be.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: It’s a classic.
Victor: Yeah, definitely.
Amber: So some of the words you’re going to learn in this dialect you may hear and use everyday, we promise. So listen carefully. So in this lesson, you’re going to learn how to tell someone you don’t understand what they are saying.
Victor: And this conversation is between two strangers.
Amber: Yeah. We’ll listen to the dialogue in a minute, but first we want to remind everybody, please come to the site and comment. We know we have a comment section for each lesson, and it’s a great place to come if you have any questions about the lesson, that you…the grammar points or anything that you learned.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Or if you just want to say hi, that’s okay too.
Victor: Yeah, let us know who you are.
Amber: Yes, tell a story. Tell us where you’re from.
Victor: Are you a foreigner?
Amber: Yes. What kind of foreigner are you? Anyways, come to the site and you’ll find the place to comment and you can get involved with the community as well.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Okay, now let’s listen to the conversation.
Victor: 你是外国人吗?(Nǐ shì wàiguórén ma?)
Amber: 对不起,我听不懂。(Duìbùqǐ,wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Victor: Oh, 你是外国人!(O, nǐ shì wàiguórén!)
Amber: 我听不懂。(Wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Amber: One more time, a little slower.
Victor: 你是外国人吗?(Nǐ shì wàiguórén ma?)
Amber: 对不起,我听不懂。(Duìbùqǐ,wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Victor: Oh, 你是外国人!(O, nǐ shì wàiguórén!)
Amber: 我听不懂。(Wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Amber: One more time with the English.
Victor: 你是外国人吗?(Nǐ shì wàiguórén ma?)
Amber: Are you a foreigner?
Amber: 对不起,我听不懂。(Duìbùqǐ,wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Amber: I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
Victor: Oh, 你是外国人!(O, nǐ shì wàiguórén!)
Amber: Oh, you are a foreigner.
Amber: 我听不懂。(Wǒ tīngbùdǒng.)
Amber: I don’t understand.
Amber:Ah, the classic ‘waiguoren’ tag, Victor.
Victor: Yeah, the Chinese are fascinated by foreigners.
Amber: I think it’s true. I mean, we get a lot more attention there. I remember coming back to America and thinking, “How come nobody notices me anymore?” It’s like kind of a good ego boost.
Victor: Because in China, it’s a more homogenous society, so you do stand out with, you know, blonde hair or blue eyes or whatever, you know.
Amber: You do. You definitely look different. And I do have to say although, you may, at times, feel like a bit of an animal and being looked at in a zoo, it’s not in a bad way. They mean it in the best way possible.
Victor: Talking about self consciousness.
Amber: Yeah. Okay, let’s take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
Victor: And now the vocab section.
Victor: 外国人(wàiguórén)
Amber: Foreigner.
Victor: 对不起(duìbùqǐ)
Amber: Sorry.
Victor: 听不懂(tīng bù dǒng)
Amber: Do not understand.
Victor: 哦(ò)
Amber: Oh.
Victor: Oh, 是(shì)
Amber: To be.
Amber: Okay, let’s have a closer look at the usage for some of these words and phrases. Okay, so Victor, what is this word for foreigner that you’re going to be pegged with the second you arrive in China?
Victor: We heard it in the dialogue, it is ‘外国人。(Wàiguó rén.)’外(Wài) if fourth tone, 国(Guó) is second tone and 人(Rén) is also second tone. And it literally means outside the country person.
Amber: Yeah. And, you know, this is interesting too because I think the Chinese are so fascinated by foreigners that they have more than one term for a foreigner.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Because sometimes you will just be just walking down the street guaranteed, online listeners, if you go to China and you will one day hear someone yell out.
Victor: ‘老外!’(Lǎowài!).
Amber: 老外(Lǎowài) which is similar, it’s just…this 老(Lǎo) is third tone. It means like “old” and then 外(Wài) means “foreigner” yeah.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So I don’t know, but I kind of think of it like a term of endearment.
Victor: Yeah, it’s kind of like ”good old” something in English, right?
Amber: Yeah, exactly.
Victor: It’s the Chinese version, exactly the same almost.
Amber: Yeah. So, I mean, I think it’s generally not said with any malice.
Victor: Right.
Amber: I mean, maybe only in the context of their complaining about the 老外(Lǎowài) which I’m know [warrant] at times, but yeah, I think it’s a term of endearment. Okay so now, as a true 外国人(Wàiguó rén) or a 老外(Lǎowài) as the case may be, it may very well be that you happened to be learning Chinese and you don’t understand a whole lot yet, yet.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Do you know what I’m saying? Do not panic anyone if you find yourself in this situation. It’s no cost for panic.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Because we have some more of the magic words. If you learn the magic words everything is going to be okay.
Victor: Right. If you know these phrases or the next one I’m going to teach you, everyone will understand and they’ll try to help you, maybe with a little of charades or whatever...
Amber: Yeah, yeah.
Victor: ...with a translator or not.
Amber: And the magic words are?
Victor: 听不懂(Tīng bù dǒng)
Amber: Yes, which means, “I don’t understand.”
Victor: You’re right. So 听(Tīng) is first tone, 不(Bù) is a fourth tone and 懂(Dǒng) is third tone.
Amber: Right. Okay so, you can use this phrase to tell someone that you don’t understand what they’re saying and they’re of course going to be very understanding. Chinese people are very patient with people learning their language I find.
Victor: You’re right, right. And they’d be like oh 外国人...(Wàiguó rén...)
Amber: Yeah, yeah like, “Ahh,” you hear the “Oh.”
Victor: Or 老外..(Lǎowài..)
Amber: That’s right. So you shouldn’t get discouraged. And sometimes this is a good phrase to learn as well because you might even be trying to say something and maybe the Chinese person might say to you 听不懂(Tīng bù dǒng), but don’t get discouraged.
Victor: That’s going to be encouraging.
Amber: Don’t get discouraged, just keep trying. I mean the truth is that maybe a lot of people haven’t had a lot of exposure to foreigners learning Chinese and so they’re not used to different accents. It doesn’t mean that you’re speaking terribly. Just keep trying to pronounce it and they’ll probably get it.
Victor: Yeah and I think it’s true that Chinese people are also more direct…
Amber: Yes, that is correct.
Victor: …than people in the west. And especially if they feel comfortable with you, they would be even more direct.
Amber: Yes.
Victor: So they’ll say, 听不懂(Tīng bù dǒng), you know, so just go ahead and say it ahead or find some other words, right?
Amber: Yeah, but don’t take offense. Don’t be discouraged. Okay, so the next vocab word is something also we’ll probably going to need right away because as a foreigner learning a new language, we may pronounce something wrong and say something weird or some sort of 听不懂(Tīng bù dǒng) ‘s you know.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So we’re going to definitely want to learn how to apologize or say sorry or excuse me.
Victor: Yeah, or just in any situation, you may need this word.
Amber: Yeah. So we’ve learned one before which was?
Victor: 不好意思.(Bù hǎoyìsi.), previously and then there’s another way too that you’ll hear probably even more often and it is 对不起.(Duìbùqǐ.) 对(Duì) is fourth tone, 不(Bù) is also fourth tone, and 起(Qǐ) is third tone.
Amber: That’s right. So if you do say maybe the tone wrong and end up saying a swear word instead of the real world, you can say 对不起.(Duìbùqǐ.).
Victor: Yeah 对不起(Duìbùqǐ).
Amber: Yeah and then you could say, “I’m a foreigner.” 我是外國人。(Wǒ shì wàiguó rén.)
Victor: That could always be your excuse.
Amber: They’ll forgive you. Okay and then last but not the least, we have this little word that really doesn’t require much translation, so this is a nice Chinese word to learn because it finally had sounds like English…
Victor: Right.
Amber: …which is the word for “oh.”
Victor: And it’s 哦(Ó)
Amber: Yeah.
Victor: I also apologize with less stretch in the end than English.
Amber: Yeah, maybe slightly shorter, “oh.”
Victor: 哦(Ó)
Amber: Yeah.
Victor: That’s it.
Amber: And you kind of noticed in our dialogue it was used as the sort of moment of realization, “oh,” because this Chinese person realizes, “Yes, in fact this person who looks like a foreigner is in fact a foreigner.”
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Because he says 對不起(Duìbùqǐ) everyday.
Amber: Okay, today’s grammar we have just a couple of points, the first to ease you in is a review.
Victor: Yes. Of the verb we have seen popping up before, 是(Shì) and it’s rough…and it’s a rough equivalent to the English “to be” although not exactly the same.
Amber: Yeah. And it pops up again in today’s dialogue where we hear?
Victor: ‘你是外国人吗?(‘Nǐ shì wàiguó rén ma?)
Amber: Right. And what is really nice about this sentence is that, again, it’s showing us some classic Chinese word order for this kind of simple sentence and the good news is, is that it matches English.
Victor: Right.
Amber: Because how we say this in Chinese, 你是外国人吗?(Nǐ shì wàiguó rén ma?) is a word-for-word basically how we would say it in English which is, “You are a foreigner?” and then the question mark.
Victor: Yeah, you are a foreigner, right?
Amber: And the word 吗(Ma) as we know what makes the statement into a question.
Victor: Okay, so our next of points, revisits 听不懂.(Tīng bù dǒng.)
Amber: Right, “I don’t understand.” So first of all you’re going to be able to use this any time you can’t understand what someone says to you. So you can just burn this phrase into your brain, it would help a lot.
Victor: Right, so let’s break down 听不懂(Tīng bù dǒng). 听(Tīng) is the verb for the “to hear.” And ‘不’(Bù), as we know from before is our negator word and 董(Dǒng) here means “to understand.”
Amber: Right, so you put it all together and it literally means, “Hear, not understand.”
Victor: Right.
Amber: It’s like, it’s going in. It’s not that you can’t hear them, but you hear them and you can’t process what they are saying…
Victor: It’s not making sense.
Amber: …which is generally the case when you’re learning a language, kind of like a malfunction at the junction sort of idea.
Victor: You’re right, so this is a special structure in Chinese that you would definitely come across more as you go along.
Amber: Yeah, it’s basically a way that they use verbs in Chinese to indicate that it’s not possible to reach a conclusion or a result. And you’ll learn more about that later as we go along, but just for now, you can memorize the ‘听不懂!’(Tīng bù dǒng!) and it will come in very handy.
Victor: Right. And one more thing, just on the flip side, if it so happens that you do understand, bravo to you. And you want to let the other person know, you can use the same phrase, just to change it a little.
Amber: That’s right. If you wanted to tell him that you do understand, you can use the positive form. So in this case, we’re going to swap out the 不 for something else.
Victor: And rather than to say 不(Bù) you say ‘听得动’(Tīng dé dòng).
Amber: Right, 得(Dé) which is second tone.
Victor: Right and with that, it indicates in fact, you do understand.
Amber: That’s right. And I would like to say, have no fear because if you keep listening to ChineseClass101.com, you very soon will 听得动(Tīng dé dòng) this and much, much more in no time.
Victor: Right, certainly.


Amber: Okay, that’s just about does it for today, but on the pronunciation note, we do want to help you guys all to improve, keep improving and so we want to tell you that in the premium learning center, we have a tool for that.
Victor: And that’s the all powerful voice recording tool.
Amber: Yes. Just one click of a button and you can record your voice and then play it back just as easily.
Victor: Yeah. So record your own voice and listen to it and then compare it with the native speakers.
Amber: Yeah and then adjust your pronunciation accordingly and keep trying.
Victor: So that’s it for now and we’ll see you next lesson.
Amber: Yes, have another listen to the dialogue, but we will say for now 再见!(Zàijiàn!).


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Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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Have you been called a 外国人 (wàiguórén) yet? :)

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 05:17 PM
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你好 D'Andra,

Thank you for sharing with us!

我不明白 simply means I don't understand.

我听不懂 means I can't understand what I heard.

看不懂 means I can't understand what I read or saw.

If you have any questions, please let us know.


Team ChineseClass101.com

Sunday at 10:29 AM
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你好,what are the differences between 我不明白 and 我听不懂 and 看不懂?

Sunday at 10:24 AM
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你好, 我是美国人。我喜欢中文但是中文很难。我想学中文因为我想跟中国人说话。

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 01:21 PM
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Hello Shell B. / 柏潇,

Thank you for your comment. In this case we can say 看不懂, 看 means to see, to look, to read, etc.

If you have any questions, please let us know.


Team ChineseClass101.com

Shell B. / 柏潇
Saturday at 07:31 AM
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I am curious if there is a version of 听不懂 for reading since the lesson notes say it's specifically that you didn't understand something you heard. Let's say I read the lesson notes and am confused, is there another ___不懂 I might use? 😆

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 09:12 AM
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Hi Msrie,

Thank you for posting.

Our content is based on the Mandarin Chinese spoke in Beijing. But we do have voice actors from different regions hosting different series.



Team ChineseClass101.com

Saturday at 10:19 PM
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I am still curious about the spoken accent presented in the Absolute Beginner series. It does not sound like the accent newscasters use on the national media (which I assume is a standardized Beijing accent since this is the capital, or is it as artificial as the Oxbridge accent that BBC newscasters employ?) I ask the question of accents because in a country as large and linguistically diverse as China, what accent you speak matters. Here in the US, there is a great deal of diversity in accent, and some accents (like those from the South) are a liability and many people have to study with language coaches to reduce their accent to a more neutral one.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 11:48 AM
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Hello Marie,

Thank you for your comment. Mandarin is actually based on the Beijing dialect. There are variations in how different people speak in real life, the more you listen the better it'll get. 😉

Let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Friday at 01:49 AM
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What accent are you presenting in the Absolute Beginners series? My Chinese friends tell me that the accent from Hangzhou is considered the most desirable accent. Victor speaks very clearly and cleanly, but some of the speakers in the sample sentences in the vocabulary section have different (and for a beginner) harder to understand accents.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 01:29 PM
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Hello Kevin,

Thank you for your comment.

You can say: 总有一天我会听得懂。(Zǒng yǒu yītiān wǒ huì tīng de dǒng.)

Keep going! 👍 Let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com