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Lesson Transcript

Amber: Hey everyone, welcome back to ChineseClass101.com, I’m Amber.
Victor: Hi everyone, I’m Victor.
Amber: And today’s lesson is Basic Bootcamp number one. Today we're going to learn the basics of Chinese and this is going to be the self-introduction and basic greetings in Chinese.
Victor: With this lesson, you will be able to introduce yourself to anybody and make a lot of friends.
Amber: Yes, so that’s what the Bootcamp series is for, we will help you ease your way into Chinese. No sweating and toil, we promise. OK, so now we have a dialogue that will teach you how to introduce yourself. Nothing more basic than this, you will probably have this conversation no less than 200 times in your first month in China.
Victor: Yep, maybe even more.
Amber: Yeah, depends on how outgoing you are. So, let's listen to the conversation.
你好,我叫王国易。(Nǐhǎo, wǒ jiào Wáng Guóyì.)
我叫李珍。很高兴认识你。(Wǒ jiào Lǐ Zhēn. Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ.)
我也是。(Wǒ yě shì.)
Victor: 重复一次,慢速。
Amber: One more time, a little slower.
你好,我叫王国易。(Nǐhǎo, wǒ jiào Wáng Guóyì.)
我叫李珍。很高兴认识你。(Wǒ jiào Lǐ Zhēn. Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ.)
我也是。(Wǒ yě shì.)
Victor: 重复一次,加英文翻译。
Amber: One more time, with the English.
你好,我叫王国易。(Nǐhǎo, wǒ jiào Wáng Guóyì.)
Amber: Hello, I'm Wang Guoyi.
我叫李珍。很高兴认识你。(Wǒ jiào Lǐ Zhēn. Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ.)
Amber: I'm Li Zhen. Nice to meet you.
我也是。(Wǒ yě shì.)
Amber: Likewise.
Amber: Ok, so Victor, what do people do in China when they first meet? Is there any sort of custom that would go along with this conversation?
Victor: Yeah, usually, you know, shaking hands is pretty common.
Amber: So, interestingly, I would say that in China some people do shake hands, but not always, it’s ok if you don't, really nothing is necessary besides a smile, or even sometimes people nod. But I’ve never seen anyone bowed or anything like that.
Victor: That was… that was… they used to do that hundreds of years ago. At least, you know, the Qing dynasty.
Amber: Or they would do the kowtow or whatever, right?
Victor: Yeah, yeah.
Amber: Like on the ground. They don’t do that much anymore, thankfully.
Victor: Right, I guess that shaking hands is kinda formal, but, you know, depends on the situation. Yes, I think the Chinese are not overly demonstrative.
Amber: Yeah, I think that the, you know, even in the past, I would sort of have these burst of emotion to maybe hug my Chinese friends. And I think definitely hugging is a bit foreign, I would notice that the body would go quite stiff!
Victor: I noticed that too, hugging is not quite there yet.
Amber: It’s a little bit weird for Chinese people. But over time, some of your friends might get into it.
Amber: OK, so let's take a closer look into these self-introductions. Because if you’re not going to be bowing or shaking hands, you better learn how to say something to introduce yourself, at least, otherwise you’d be just standing there staring, right? So, what’s our “hello” here? We heard it in the dialogue, the very first line.
Victor: We have the 你好 (nǐhǎo).
Amber: Now the Chinese “hello” is quite particular. Literally translated, what does it mean, Victor?
Victor: It is ‘you good’.
Amber: Well, the good thing is, when you say “hello” you already learned two very useful words in Chinese, within the “hello,” which is the word for “you”…
Victor: 你 (nǐ)
Amber: and the word for “good”…
Victor: 好 (hǎo).
Amber: Yes. So, Victor, can you use it any time of day, in any circumstance with any person?
Victor: Yes, pretty much. The only thing you might change a bit is if you want to be very formal or respectful.
Amber: Yeah, so in a very formal introduction, for example, to an older person, or when?
Victor: Right, older person, or person with higher stature, maybe.
Amber: Like, would you use it with your boss?
Victor: Yeah, someone that’s older than you.
Amber: If you’re at an event and meeting someone for the first time, you know, sometimes people will use it as a form of respect.
Victor: Right.
Amber: So, the good thing is, the good news is, it’s almost the same as 你好 (nǐhǎo), in fact, if you don’t listen carefully, you might not even notice.
Victor: So you change how you say “you,” that will turn into 您 (nín).
Amber: Yeah, so 你 (nǐ) is the word for “you,” third tone. But when you speak in formal language, the word is...
Victor: 您 (nín). So the difference here is 你 (nǐ), the simple “you” in pinyin is spelled NI.
Amber: Third tone.
Victor: Right, and 您 (nín) is NIN.
Amber: And that’s second tone.
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: So, very slight difference, but it’s good to know because people will find you respectful if you say 您好 (nín hǎo). And the tone on 好 (hǎo) is third tone as well.
Victor: Right, 您好 (nín hǎo) is for very formal occasions, and 你好 (nǐhǎo) is for every occasions.
Amber: Can you say them side by side so we can hear the difference, Victor?
Victor: Just simple “hello” is 你好 (nǐhǎo), more formal is 您好 (nín hǎo).
Amber: Good, so what is the next thing we heard?
Victor: 我叫王国易(wǒ jiào Wáng Guóyì.)
Amber: Right. So in Chinese, a simple way of stating your name is saying…
Victor: 我叫(wǒ jiào)
Amber: Which literally means “I, to be called.” So, “I” is 我(wǒ), and then “to be called” is 叫(jiào). So what are the tones on that, Victor?
Victor: 我(wǒ) is a third tone, and 叫(jiào) is a fourth tone.
Amber: Ok, so let’s try it with each other. 我叫子安 (wǒ jiào Zǐ'ān), “my name is Zi An” in Chinese.
Victor: 我叫宁建超 (wǒ jiào Níng jiàn chāo).
Amber: So long, Victor, can you make it easier for the students? Ok, so, everyone can use this, very simple how to tell people you name. Now, we’ll talk more about names a bit more later, about Chinese names. But in our dialogue here, the guy’s name is...
Victor: 王国易 (Wáng Guóyì)
Amber: Right, he said “hello” and he told his counterpart his name. So what is said in response then, naturally, we heard next...
Victor: It is, 我叫李珍 (Wǒ jiào Lǐ Zhēn.)
Amber: So the other person in conversation will also respond with their name. Can you say it again, Victor?
Victor: 我叫李珍 (Wǒ jiào Lǐ Zhēn.)
Amber: So our lady’s name is Li Zhen in this dialogue. So it’s really easy, once a person introduced themselves, you can just actually mirror what they say. Hopefully they’ll go first if you’re learning Chinese, you can just copy them.
Victor: Yeah, and if you want to add something really nice, you can say what she just said
Amber: Yes, charming lady that Li Zhen is, she says…
Victor: 很高兴认识你。(Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ. )
Amber: Ok, now, this means “very nice to meet you” or “very happy to meet you”. Let’s break down the words, the characters, for a minute, Victor. First we heard...
Victor: 很 (hěn)
Amber: 很 (hěn) is third tone.
Victor: It’s “very”.
Amber: Yes, and then the next word we heard is the word for “happy”.
Victor: 高兴 (gāoxìng)
Amber: So 高(gāo) is first tone, 兴 (xìng) is fourth tone. Then we hear the word for “to know.”
Victor: 认识 (rènshi)
Amber: Which is fourth tone, neutral tone. And the last word we know, which is the word for “you.”
Victor: 你 (nǐ). So added together is 很高兴认识你 (Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ).
Amber: Good, so, “very nice to meet you.” Now, we should mention something, Victor, about the verb 认识 (rènshi).
Victor: Yes, it means ‘to know’ or ‘to be familiar with’
Amber: Yeah. However, in the context of this phrase 很高兴认识你 (Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ), the implication is that of “to meet.” So in this case, you can also use it to mean “to meet”.
Victor: Right, so this literally means “it’s very nice to know you,” although you mean, to meet you here.
Amber: Even though it’s the first time, it’s still nice to “know” you from now on, right?
Victor: Yes.
Amber: Good.
Victor: So there’s another to say “very nice to meet you.”
Amber: Yeah, there is more than one way, for different occasions.
Victor: This one is actually easier, and it’s 幸会 (xìng huì).
Amber: 幸会 (xìng huì). So sounds like fourth tone, fourth tone?
Victor: Yes, and of course, being Chinese, we always say things twice. So you can say 幸会幸会(xìng huì xìng huì).
Amber: Coz you’re very happy to meet...
Victor: You can say this to anybody, young people, older people, doesn't matter. It actually comes from a Chinese historic text, and it means “it’s very lucky that we’re meeting right now,” so it’s kinda like...
Amber: that’s very complimentary.
Victor: It’s kinda like, you know, very poetic way to say, it’s nice to meet you.
Amber: You know, poetic and romantic type to throw a few 幸会 (xìng huì) and everyone will..
Victor: The thing’s very Chinese, yeah, 幸会幸会(xìng huì xìng huì), so maybe easier to remember.
Amber: And there’s also another formal one i heard, too, kinda one that you can use, maybe at like a cocktail party, or business dinner. What’s that one, Victor?
Victor: If you must sweeten up your phrase a little bit, that is 久仰 (jiǔyǎng).
Amber: And that is second tone, third tone, right?
Victor: Yes, and that means “I have longed to have meet you,” so “your reputation precedes you,” yes, I have heard about you so long and I’ve longed to meet you.
Amber: See, and this is something good to know for talking about self-introduction in Chinese, is that Chinese culture has a lot of flattery involved, giving face, and so they say. So I think that sounds like a phrase that gives someone a lot of face.
Victor: And of course, if you have really heard about this person, if you say that, I think, you know, I can just imagine all the dinners they’ll treat you to.
Amber: Yes, exactly. So, Victor knows how it is. No wonder.
Victor: So remember these two, 幸会(xìng huì) and 久仰 (jiǔyǎng) also.
Amber: Ok, so back to our dialogue, we heard the person say “happy to meet you” with this 很高兴认识你 (Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ), and the natural response is, as in our dialogue...
Victor: 我也是 (wǒ yě shì), which means, literally, “I also am.”
Amber: Right, so let’s break down the characters. The first one is the word for “I”
Victor: 我 (wǒ)
Amber: And that’s the third tone. The second word is...
Victor: 也 (yě)
Amber: Also third tone, which means “also.”
Victor: And 是 (shì).
Amber: Fourth tone, which is the verb “to be.” So put together, it means, literally, “I also am.”
Victor: And it’s 我也是 (wǒ yě shì).
Amber: So that’s our dialogue!

Lesson focus

Amber: So, we mentioned we promised we’re going to talk a little bit about Chinese names. It’s kind of an issue in self-introduction, isn’t it, Victor?
Victor: Yes, sometimes.
Amber: So let’s first explain how Chinese names works.
Victor: Well, first of all, the last name comes first.
Victor: Right, so in the self introductions we just heard, what was the guy’s name again, Victor?
Victor: Wang Guoyi.
Amber: Right, so in this case, that means the last name, his surname, was…
Victor: Wang.
Amber: Right, it’s first. And then his given name...
Victor: Guoyi.
Amber: Right.
Victor: So you can see that sense of family line is very important.
Amber: Yes, it’s very cultural.
Victor: Identify with your your family, your clan, so that comes first.
Amber: Let’s take your name, Victor, you said it earlier. Let’s break it down and find out your family name and your given name.
Victor: So my name is 宁建超 (Níng jiàn chāo).
Amber: So that means your last name, your surname, is...
Victor: 宁 (Níng)
Amber: And then your given names are...
Victor: 建超 (jiàn chāo)
Amber: Interesting. So tell us, Victor, how are Chinese names chosen, like, do people just randomly make one up, or are there set names like ‘Michael’ or ‘Bob’ in Chinese that everyone has? Because there are a lot of ‘Lily’s in the English Chinese names.
Victor: Lily?
Amber: Are there a lot of common names in Chinese, or how does it work?
Victor: Sometimes, I mean it depends, you know, most of the time, the family name is just one character, and then followed by either one character as the first name, or two characters.
Amber: Right, sometimes, a person’s entire name is made up of two characters. But Victor’s name is made up of three characters. And the guy in our dialogue, the first person, was also three characters.
Victor: So two or three are very common. Rarely though, you have someone who has last name that is two characters; they’re rare, but it happens.
Amber: So the second person in our dialogue, she has two names, what was her name, again?
Victor: Li Zhen.
Amber: Yeah, and i found this is quite common for people to just have two names.
Victor: Right, so usually when people pick their names, words that have good meanings, or personal significance, maybe the date. Sometimes people called 国庆 (Guóqìng), which means “National day,” and if they were really born around that time, and they’d literally just be named, you know, last name, and then 国庆 (Guóqìng).
Amber: Oh! I’ve heard that name quite a bit, I think. It really tells a lot of your family values, by the name they chose. Your parent’s values. Victor, so what does your name mean? So 宁 (Níng), does it have any meaning, or just a surname?
Victor: Just a surname.
Amber: So what about your given name?
Victor: 建 (jiàn) means “healthy”
Amber: And you’re very healthy, it appears so.
Victor: And 超 (chāo) means “super”
Amber: Super healthy!
Victor: I have a very modest name. You can see, yeah, no pressure from my parents at all.
Amber: So your parents give the name hoping you grow up to be a healthy superman or something?
Victor: I think so far so good.
Amber: Well, it’s interesting because 超 (chāo) is the same 超 (chāo) for “Superman,” right?
Victor: Yeah.
Amber: Your alter ego, the Chinese superman.
Victor: My parents didn’t really expect anything from me, so...
Amber: Back to the names, Victor, I’ve also heard there’s some occasions when people just say their surname, just one name.
Victor: Yes, on some formal occasions people will just give their surname. If you want to say it that way you just say 我姓 (wǒ xìng).
Amber: And then you say the last name, not your first name.
Victor: Right, just give your last name.
Amber: So I guess probably because in a formal occasion, they will be just calling you, for example, Mr. Ning, so they’ll say like 宁先生 (Níng xiānshēng), so maybe they don’t need to know your first name. And What happens is, people will ask you your last name, they’ll say 你贵姓?(Nǐ guìxìng?) or 您贵姓?(Nín guìxìng?)
Victor: Right, that’s also very flattery.
Amber: Oh yeah, that’s true.
Victor: So, you know, you say 您贵姓?(Nín guìxìng?) What’s your honorable family name, that’s what it means.
Amber: So it all seems quite formal, Victor, but what about amongst friends? Like, I’m pretty sure that, it is something kinda interesting to me, but I would heard Chinese people call their friends by their entire names. As if everytime I meet you, i’d be like, Victor Ning, how are you? It’s very weird in English.
Victor: I think, again, it comes to a sense of personal boundary. I think, within the same generation of friends, unless you’re romantically involved, usually you won’t be that intimate. You know, older people can call you by your first name only, that’s totally fine; your mom, your dad, call you by your first name, that’s fine.
Amber: So level of intimacy.
Victor: But among friends, sometimes depends on how the names rhyme or whatever, but usually you don’t call your friends just by first name, because it’s a very close sense of intimacy there.
Amber: I thought it was may be because there are so many people in China. You have to distinguish, maybe you need all three names to be specifically you.
Victor: No, I think it’s more of a personal sense of boundary.
Amber: Because there might be fifteen friends named ‘Li’, definitely. I mean, or like ‘Chen’ or something.
Victor: I think it’s more of a personal sense of boundary here, I can really imagine, if someone calls me only by my first name, it better be like really good friends or much older than me.
Amber: Oh, very good to know, very interesting. Now, we mentioned that a person in China, a foreigner, you’re gonna need a Chinese name. Everyone is going to want to give you one, if you don’t have one. Now, what is the rules, Victor? I think that it’s pretty important that you don’t choose your own Chinese name, it’s quite dangerous.
Victor: Yeah, it is.
Amber: You can end up with something really bad, right?
Victor: Because the words can have significant meanings, you know.
Amber: And not just any of character that can go together.
Victor: Correct.
Amber: You could sound really strange.
Victor: Or maybe you wanna wait until you have enough Chinese knowledge, and then you can kinda tell what means certain things.
Amber: Maybe you can just steal someone else’s name, if you hear one that you like, why not? Maybe some poet names, you know, something like that. You can be like, I’m Sun Yat-sen. Would anyone do that?
Victor: No, I don’t think so. That would be really funny, kinda odd.
Amber: Ok, well, basically, choose, have someone choose your name, and that’s the best rule of thumb. Ok, so hear the dialogue one more time, so everyone knows how to introduce themselves. And that’s it for today’s Bootcamp lesson, we’ll see you next time.


Victor: 再见 (zàijiàn)
Amber: 再见 (zàijiàn)


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