Basic Mandarin Words & Phrases

Though Little Brother is rapidly (remarkably!) picking up English, we have found it helpful to have a few important Mandarin words and phrases in our back pockets, to assist in communicating with him.

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The following list is our Chinese vocabulary, in it’s (pathetic) entirety:

Bu (“boo”) – no

Bu Hao (“boo how”) – not good

Xu Yao (“boo yow”) – no need/don’t want

Xie Xie (“shay shay”) – thank you

Bie Kuqi (“buh coachy”) – you’re welcome

Bung Hao (“bung how”) – all done

Ni Hao (“knee how”) – hello

Zai jian (“sigh shee-yen”) – goodbye

Wo ai ni (“wahl eye knee”) – I love you

Go lai (“go lie”) – come back/came back

Baba (“bah-bah”) – daddy

Mama (“mah-mah”) – mommy

Ponyo (“pawn-yo”) – friend

Di di (“dee-dee”) – little brother

Mei mei (“may-may”) – little sister

Jie Jie (“jay-jay”) – big sister

Laoshi (“Lau-sure”) – teacher

Gou (“go”) – dog

Mao (“mow”) – cat

This is very basic, and probably partially mis-spelled, but it will get you by if/when you travel to China. If you want to know more, let me know and I’ll ask my children. (Not kidding.)

Other tricks to remember:

X printed has a “shh” sound. For instance, the city that our son is from- Xinyang– is pronouned “shin-yawn”.

Zh together make a “j” sound. Zhengzhou, the capitol city in Henan is pronounced “Jen-Joe”.

Words ending in ang would be pronounced “awn”. The letter g is typically silent.

We also found that our son, and several of his peers, had been taught some basic Baby Sign. This could have been due to his cleft lip (repaired) and palate, as many children with that condition have limited or nonexistent speech function. Regardless, it was extremely helpful in the first few days as we struggled to understand each other.


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