Vocabulary (Review)

Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Victor: 大家好 (dàjiā hǎo), I’m Victor.
Amber: Hey everybody, I'm Amber. Welcome back to ChineseClass101.com. Our All About Chinese series. Victor, what are we going to learn about Chinese today?

Lesson focus

Victor: We’re going to teach you five very effective, very important phrases in Chinese.
Amber: Yes, the top five phrases in Chinese. We’re basically taking years of experience in China and broiling it down to the most essential phrases for everybody. Because when you’re first learning, you have to make sure you learn the important things first. You don’t want to learn arithmetic words first.
Victor: I think the first one, very powerful, is 谢谢 (xièxie).
Amber: Right, so 谢谢 (xièxie) means “thank you”. Now, 谢谢 (xièxie) is fourth tone, neutral tone, right?
Victor: Right.
Amber: And I would have to say, Victor, the Chinese are not big on please, but they are very big on thank you.
Victor: Right, I agree.
Amber: Sometimes they love thank you so much that you don’t just hear 谢谢 (xièxie)…
Victor: 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...)
Amber: You get like a barrage of 谢谢 (xièxie). So can you give us an example of Chinese 谢谢 (xièxie) barrage?
Victor: 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...)
Amber: Exactly.
Victor: And especially, people probably say with more gratitude when they are very excited or touched by your acts of kindness, they’ll just say 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...)
Amber: Yes, they’re very grateful people. However, so sometimes yes, this word that means “thank you” is repeated 100 times, they’re very thankful. However, I’ve… as a cultural side point, this word is also sometimes used in other context as well. 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...)
Victor: Like what?
Amber: It doesn’t always mean “thank you”. Sometimes if you’re bargaining in a store, you give a price and they’re like, “No way, Jose”. And the 老板 (lǎobǎn), the boss will just be like 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...). And basically what it is is “get lost” in a nice way.
Victor: A very polite way to get you away.
Amber: And I think there’s also other 谢谢 (xièxie) occasions as well. What do you think, Victor? Sometimes people will be like 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...).
Victor: Like what?
Amber: I think that you don’t know this 谢谢 (xièxie) because you can speak Chinese, so you’ve never had this experience. But I’ve noticed that Chinese people, sometimes in the cases when they don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll be like 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...). They’re just like “thank you for that, whatever it was”.
Victor: So when they’re kind of overwhelmed.
Amber: Yeah, I think so. They want to say something, but they can tell you obviously can’t understand anything else but 谢谢 (xièxie), so they just say 谢谢 (xièxie) 500 times, maybe cause nothing else can be said.
Victor: Now, we just talked about… I can see that happening because I think Chinese culture is very polite, so it’s considered very impolite to point out the other party’s shortcomings. So when they don’t understand what you say, naturally I would not say, “I don’t understand what you just said”, which is common in English. People say that all the time or they can hear you, but in China people don’t do that. So they’re supposed to just know whatever you’re doing.
Amber: You’re so right. They feel bad, they feel like they’re making you lose face if they can’t really understand you, so instead I think it’s pretty universal, no one will get mad at you, no matter what the…
Victor: … feelings though, rather to tell you something they just no say it.
Amber: So sweet. Very endearing. Ok, so now that we know how to be thankful, we should also… Even if you can’t say anything else in Chinese, you should learn this word because at least you’ll show you’re friendly, which is the word for “hello”. How do you say that in Chinese?
Victor: That’ll be 你好 (nǐ hǎo).
Amber: Ok, 你好 (nǐ hǎo). Basically what it means is “you, good”. That is the word for “hello” in Chinese. And if you don’t know that word yet, we don’t know where you’ve been because everyone knows 你好 (nǐ hǎo), don’t they?
Victor: Yeah, 你好 (nǐ hǎo).
Amber: Very essential word. So it’s a very nice way to greet someone. “You, good”.
Victor: Yes, right.
Amber: So 你好 (nǐ hǎo) is second, actually it’s third tone, third tone. But in this case we pronounce the 你 (nǐ) as second tone.
Victor: So 你好 (nǐ hǎo).
Amber: Good. Ok, so now we’ve said hello. Now, unfortunately, when we really boil down all these years Chinese experience, we do have to say a lot of the essential phrases stem from situations of confusion, because it might happen when you’re learning a language in the environment, right? But the important thing is to be equipped. So, like you’ve said, Chinese people just say 谢谢 (xièxie) when they can’t understand you, perhaps, because they don’t want to make you feel bad. But there actually is a way that you yourself can tell them that you don’t understand what they’re saying. And this is pretty important. Sometimes Chinese people they’re so friendly, and they’re so happy, like, Victor, you’ve mentioned, they’re happy when a foreigner’s learning Chinese.
Victor: They just assume.
Amber: Yes. And then you’ll be hit with this wall of Chinese, right?
Victor: Right. They’re so excited that foreigners speak Chinese. They just jump in with everything they want to talk to you about.
Amber: Yeah, so if you kind of want to tell them that you don’t understand, how do you say that in Chinese?
Victor: That’ll be 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng).
Amber: 听 (tīng) is the word for “to hear”, 不 (bù) is the word for negating a word, negating a verb, 懂 (dǒng) is “understand”. So 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng) means “hear not understand”. I'm hearing you but it’s not getting through. There’s a malfunction at the junction.
Victor: Right. It’s a very powerful phrase. Once they hear that they will know your Chinese levels and they can slow down for you and be more considerate of your understanding.
Amber: Yeah. So 听 (tīng) is the first tone, 不 (bù) is it fourth tone here, Victor?
Victor: Yeah. 不 (bù).
Amber: And then 懂 (dǒng) is third tone.
Victor: Is the third, right.
Amber: Can you give it to us again, the real Chinese speaker?
Victor: 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng).
Amber: Right. These are kind of like magic words. Once you say these, people will be like “Oh…”
Victor: Yeah, you’ll be all set in China, wherever you go.
Amber: And then you could be like 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...).
Victor: All the essentials, yes. To go along with , the next phrase is also along the same lines. It is “I don’t know”.
Amber: Yes, very useful as well. Many occasions I’ve used it. And there’s actually many occasions that Chinese people like to use this word as well. Ok, let’s first break it down. How do you say “I don’t know”?
Victor: It’ll be 不知道 (bù zhīdào).
Amber: So 不 (bù), we remember we just learned, was the word for “not”, negative word, and then 知道 (zhīdào) is first tone, fourth tone, right?
Victor: Correct.
Amber: What does that mean?
Victor: That means to know or to understand.
Amber: So that’s the verb to know. 知道 (zhīdào).
Victor: 不知道 (bù zhīdào) “don’t know”.
Amber: “I don’t know” can be used in many occasions, but I think Chinese people use it, like I was saying, not just to say “I don’t know”, but often they’re just trying to evade a question or play dumb. Sort of like a universal answer for everything.
Victor: Sometimes, I guess, in the context, it can be used to show that I don’t want to continue this conversation anymore.
Amber: Exactly. See, this is the thing. You’re going to learn the language here at ChineseClass101, but you’re also going to learn the layers beneath the language.
Victor: The emotions behind the phrases.
Amber: Yeah, the culture behind the phrases.
Victor: Yeah, but for the most part I think Chinese people are very open and just like when American or English speaking people say “I don’t know”. That’s a very common phrase in English as well. So in Chinese you hear it all the time too. 不知道 (bù zhīdào) “don’t know”.
Amber: Yeah, sometimes my friends and I would be like, we want to go ask something and a person doesn’t really know the answer or want to tell us the answer. Oh, I just got 不知道 (bù zhīdào)-ed. Now, there’s another phrase, going on to the next phrase that also starts with 不 (bù). And it’s used to apologize. Now, we’re going to teach you a way to say “sorry” because that is also really important when you’re learning a language because you’re probably going to end up saying a lot o things wrong, maybe. Like we mentioned, if you say the wrong tone, sometimes it can change the meaning, right? Maybe say a swear word or something.
Victor: So that’ll be 不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi).
Amber: Yes, 不好意思 (bù hǎoyìsi) can be used in so many occasions. So let’s break it down. Again, it’s 不 (bù) for the negative word, which is fourth tone, and then what comes next, Victor?
Victor: 好 (hǎo).
Amber: 好 (hǎo). which means “good” actually. Third tone.
Victor: Yeah. And 意思 (yìsi).
Amber: 意思 (yìsi). It’s fourth tone, neutral tone, is it?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: So put it all together.
Victor: “It’s not good feeling”.
Amber: 不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi).
Victor: Yeah, or “not good meaning”.
Amber: Can you pronounce it for us slower, all together?
Victor: 不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi).
Amber: Yeah, so 不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi), “not good feeling”, of course, means you’re sorry, right? So for example, it can be used anywhere from… you bump into someone, it’s very crowded, you need to excuse yourself because you kind of say something.
Victor: Right. Or you’re late to some event or whatever.
Amber: Very good phrase to learn. Ok, so that was five. Top five phrases to learn.
Victor: You should be all set. You can go to China now.
Amber: Yeah, you’re done. But actually I think honestly you need one more phrase though if you’re going to go to China. When I learned this phrase Victor – I don’t know why someone didn’t teach me this on the first day I got to China. It changed my life.
Victor: What is that?
Amber: Basically it’s the phrase that means “Let me though”. Because you’re going to be landing in this place of cities of maybe 18 million people. Things are going to get crowded, right? And there’s crowds everywhere, there’s no way to avoid it. However, sometimes you’re trapped in the subway car and you cannot get out. What are you going to do? You have to have some sort of armor. Unless you want to shove, which, let’s face it, a lot of shoving does go on, it’s effective. But there’s another verbal shove that works very well. What is it, Victor?
Victor: That is 让一下 (ràng yíxià).
Amber: Ok, so 让 (ràng) is fourth tone. And then 一下 (yíxià).
Victor: 一下 (yíxià). In this case 一 will be… usually be the first tone, but in this case it can be used as a second tone.
Amber: So 让一下 (ràng yíxià).
Victor: 让一下 (ràng yíxià).
Amber: And basically 让 (ràng) means “to allow” or “to let”.
Victor: “To yield”.
Amber: “To yield”. And then 一下 (yíxià) is kind of just a little softening word. It’s kind of like “for a moment”.
Victor: “Yield to me for a moment, please”.
Amber: So if you’re like 让 (ràng), maybe that sounds a bit harsh, right? You don’t really say that. But 让一下 (ràng yíxià) makes it a little bit softer.
Victor: Yeah, and it is very, very effective.
Amber: And I have to say, honestly, when you’re trying to crowd worm through a city of 18 million people, this phrase works better than anything. It works better than shoving. Because people literally will jump out of the way when you come up behind them and say 让一下 (ràng yíxià).
Victor: You’re right, yeah.
Amber: I don’t know why it works so well.
Victor: I think inwardly Chinese culture is a very polite society and people don’t want to be in your way. Although sometimes they may not be… I think in America people are more conscious, they watch where they’re going.
Amber: I think that’s the key.
Victor: Before they get into your way. But in China, they think they’re just doing their own business, but they don’t want to be in your way either. So when you’re saying something to let them know that you are and they will immediately just let you through.
Amber: Yeah, cause they do want to let you through. It’s just maybe there’s so many people… if you thought about getting out of someone’s way all the time, you would just get nowhere. Nothing would get done, at all. Ok, good. So we hope those five plus bonus phrase.
Victor: Plus bonus, very useful too, yeah.
Amber: Help all of you in your journey on learning Chinese. It’s a good first step.
Victor: Sure. And shall we review all six of them?
Amber: Yeah, let’s review them.
Victor: Ok, so the first one is 谢谢 (xièxie), “thank you”.
Amber: “Thank you”. Or 谢谢谢谢... (xièxie xièxie...)
Victor: 谢谢 (xièxie). Very grateful, you can just keep on saying it.
Amber: Number two.
Victor: Is 你好 (nǐ hǎo).
Amber: “Hello.”
Victor: That’s the first thing you can say. Also can be used when you try to get someone’s attention.
Amber: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
Victor: 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
Amber: Ok, number three.
Victor: 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng)
Amber: “I don’t understand”. “I hear, but I it’s not getting through.”
Victor: 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng)
Amber: Good. And number four.
Victor: 不知道 (bù zhīdào).
Amber: Right. “I don’t know.”
Victor: 不知道 (bù zhīdào).
Amber: Yes, related to 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng).
Victor: Right.
Amber: “I don’t know”. And number five?
Victor: Number five is 不好意思 (bù hǎo yìsi).
Amber: The universal apology.
Victor: “Excuse me”, “I’m sorry”. It’s a very nice way to say “I’m sorry”.
Amber: Yeah. And the bonus phrase…
Victor: 让一下 (ràng yíxià).
Amber: Yeah. “Let me through.”


Amber: Alright everybody, so if you want to learn more phrases, this is the beginning. Visit our website ChineseClass101.com, we have lot more lessons for you!