Pin Yin or Pinyin
First you must understand the phonetics of the Romanized Chinese, called "pinyin".
So, I'll attempt to teach that.
But before I do, IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet, and
APA stands for American Phonetic Alphabet.
Okay, now we can put the letters together to make words. But, I will do this in the context of sentences or phrases.
For example: ni hao (sounds like: "knee how") word-for-word it translates to: "You -- good?". It is a greeting, much like "Hi" or "Hello". Literally, it would mean: "Are you good?" or "Are you doing well?"
But, before I go any further, you need to know the tones. Chinese is a tonal language. It has four tones (and thank the heavens only four, because I don't think I can handle more than four).
But, since I don't have the capability to type the symbols (above), I will substitute thusly:
So, the sentence, "Ni hao?" actually should look like this: , but I shall write like this: Ni3 hao3?
Got it? Good. Moving right along.
Some Chinese Numbers
(with translation into English)
I always like to start with numbers, because they are the most exact and practical. So, here they are:
1 = yi1 [remember "y" is silent ]
2 = er4 [ pronounced like IPA /ar/ ]
3 = san1
4 = si4 [ pronounced like IPA /su/ ]
5 = wu3
6 = liu4
7 = qi1
8 = ba1
9 = jiu3
10 = shi2 [ pronounced like IPA /u/ ]
11 = shi2 yi1 (ten + one)
20 = er2 shi2 (two x ten)
21 = er2 shi2 yi1 (two x ten + one)
but Chinese usually just say, "er2 yi1" (two, one)
100 = bai3
1,000 = qian1
10,000 = wan4
0 = ling2
The best way to learn numbers is by rote... (practice, practice, practice)
Some Chinese Phrases & Sentences
[with translation into English]
Okay, enough of numbers. I'm way beyond that. Chinese numbers are so similar to the Sino-Korean numbers that it only took me a couple days to learn (since I already speak/read Korean).
Now, let's move on to some sentences.
But, before I do so. I'm going to change modes of writing tones, because it is a pain in the neck to do the superscript numbers. From now on, I'm going to put the tones in parentheses, like this: ni(3) hao(3). It's so much faster and convenient to do so.
So, we already know the greeting in Chinese: "You--good?" (or) "Are you good?"
****The answer would be: "Good." in Chinese there really isn't a word for "Yes." Nor is there a word for "No."
You can also phrase it as a formal question: "Ni(3) hao(3) ma(1)?" [You--good, yeah?]
The reply in Chinese is NOT "yes". The reply is: "Wo(3) hao(3)." [I'm good]
or plain, "Hao(3)" [good].
And, if you are feeling particularly good, you can say, "Wo(3) hen(3) hao(3)." [I'm very good].
Note: I've been racking my brain, trying to comprehend why "bright-white" would mean "understand", but along the same times, I have racked my brain much more trying to comprehend why "under-stand" would mean understand.
If I'm standing under somebody or something, do I comprehend that person or thing. I might comprehend how heavy that person or thing is and what that person or thing looks like from below, but I doubt I would gain any other comprehension. What about what the person or thing looks likfe from above? Wouldn't that seem important as well?
So, since the English word "understand" makes absolutely no sense what so-ever, I can accept that the Chinese word doesn't make sense either.
Incidentally, there's another Chinese word which means understand: dong(1), so, one can say, "bu(4)dong(1)" which means "[I] don't understand."
I think that now is a good time to stop and do pronouns and posessive pronouns.
* Linguistic Notes: Although the second person familiar has fallen out of use in English, it has NOT in Chinese. In fact, the general trend seems to be the opposite of English, i.e., the honorific second person is falling out of use. However, I would recommend using the honorific second person to one's boss, or to persons much one's senior.
* Linguistic Notes: The usage of words are not the same from language to language. For instance:
1. The usage of "qu" would be like... I'm going someplace. (having a specific destination in mind AND stating the destination).
2. If one merely wants to express "leaving" or "departing", the verb "zou" is used.
3. The usage of "chu" is used to express going out of a building or going on an outing.
* Linguistic Notes: Titles are definitely NOT uniform between various languages. For instance(s):
1. The Chinese title, "Xian(1)Sheng", can be used regardless of gender. Usage is as a title of respect to an older person, (hence: "first-born").
2. The Chinese title, "Elder-Teacher", could be translated in various ways, because the connotation is different from the denotation. In Confucian-based societies, such as China, Korea, Japan, and VietNam, anyone who is older, is deserving of respect; and therefore, title "elder" connotates respect. The title "teacher" connotates one who is a master of a certain art or discipline. Thus, sometimes, one can see the translation: "venerable master", or more appropriately: "venerable maestro". Yet, in Korea and Japan, for some unknown reason to me, the title "First-Born" is used to mean BOTH "Mr." AND "Teacher".
3. When talking to or about a younger person, who is familiar to the speaker, one can use the given name, without any title, of course. When talking to or about a younger person, who is NOT familiar to the speaker, one should use the full name (without any title,unless the person is a so-called professional or Ph.D., in which, the appropriate title should be affixed to the family name/surname).
I know. Too short.
If you'd like to learn more,
You may wish to consider the following books/tapes: