Hi everyone 大家好 welcome to the first episode of Growing up with Chinese 成长汉语. My name is Charlotte MacInnis and in this show I’ll be helping all of you learn some very basic and useful Chinese.
Now I realize that some of you might be thinking right now, “why should I learn Chinese,” “what does China have to do with me?” Well different people will give you different answers. And I’ll give you my answers today.
China is a country with over five thousand years of history. Exploring the various facets of Chinese culture, Chinese life, Chinese inventions, and tradition and you can’t forget Chinese language. All these aspects that have developed over these five thousand years is fascinating, exciting and really quite unique. Think of 功夫 or kung-fu as some of you might know it or even Chinese food which is delicious or can’t forget, traditional Chinese medicine. This is one of the founders of traditional Chinese medicine. By learning how to speak Chinese all of these wells of incredible information become more accessible to you. If you visit a foreign country and can speak the language of the country, you are going to have a completely different experience than if you don’t speak a word.
So, why should you learn Chinese with us? Here, and Growing up with Chinese. Well, a team of professionals have put their heads together*1 to design our shows specifically for teenagers but of course, everyone is welcome to watch.
And don’t worry, it’s not all going to be work. We also have clips of Mike, 小明 and their teachers and friends to help demonstrate what we will be learning and we will also be covering various facets of Chinese culture, history and everyday life in the show’s cultural spotlight segment. So I dare say you won’t get bored.
And finally just so you all know a little bit more about me, as I will be seeing you every show, I was born in the United States and moved to China with my family in nineteen eighty-eight, I was seven at the time. And yes, if you do the math, you can figure out how old I am, tut. And I spent ten years here before returning to America for university. So I grew up in China, learning Chinese and going to Chinese school and I’m thrilled to be hosting a show that will help all of you learn Chinese as you grow up. And yes, no matter what your age, we never stop growing up.
So this program really is for people of all ages who want to learn Chinese. So there we are!
That was quite the long introduction but I hope that now you are all more excited about learning Chinese and learning about China. OK, 好.
Our topic for today is greetings. Very important phrases to know in any foreign language. 小明, a Chinese boy, is center stage here in 北京 today as he prepares for Mike, a high school exchange student, to arrive. So let’s take a look right now and see what 小明 is up to.
小明 certainly knows a lot of people, doesn’t he? My guess is all of you pretty much understood that what we just saw were the various ways 小明 greeted different people. Let’s break them down one at a time*2.
你好 separately, 你 means you and 好 means good. When they’re put together, they form the most common greeting in Chinese hello 你好. Now if you’re saying hello to more than one person, a 们 is added after 你. 们 effectively makes a singular pronoun I you he she it, or a noun referring to a person plural. 你们 it’s the plural of you. 你们好, therefore is “hello everyone” or “hello all.”
早上好. You’re guessing correctly that this is the greeting. This phrase shares the 好 that the other two have. 早上 however means morning so 早上好 is good morning.
OK, let’s take another look at the clip.
All right, that just about*3 wraps up today’s general overview of the dialogue, now it’s time to get into some specifics.
Before we move into today’s vocabulary, I want to ask you all a question. Did any of you notice how everything sounded almost like a song? That’s because Chinese is a tonal language. Now what that means is that for almost every word in Chinese, there are four ways or four tones in which you can speak it. And the meaning of the word changes depending on the tone. So let’s use the word ma as an example, OK?
So … ma, we need it four times because there are four tones, we’ve got a first tone, second tone, third tone and fourth tone. mā, má, mǎ, mà. mā má mǎ mà. So, there are four tones and for every tone the word ma has a different meaning or sometimes different meanings. Now might sound kind of confusing right now, but don’t worry. It’s not too hard to grasp, and you all get plenty of practice with tones. So now let’s take a look at today’s list of vocabulary words.
- 你 you. nǐ
- 您 you, it’s the formal usage of the word you. nín
- 们 suffix, it’s used to form a plural number when added to a personal pronoun or a noun referring to a person. men
- 好 good. hǎo
- 早上 morning. zǎo shàng
- 爷爷 grandfather. yé ye
OK it’s time to switch gears for a minute. Now regardless of where you are from I want all of you to think for just a second about how you greet someone in your culture if you don’t say anything.
I’m from the United States. I can think of a bunch of ways I might greet people depending on how familiar I am with them. I might hug them, I might kiss them once on the cheek, I can do a fancy handshake or just a plain handshake, or I might even hold both their hands. It’s all quite physical, isn’t it?
Well in general physical greetings in China are quite reserved. In ancient times, men greeted each other like this. And women would greet people like this. People rarely made physical contact in public.
Now of course times change. Now you see all kinds of physical greetings taking place. But overall, especially compared to how physical American greetings can be, physical greetings in China are still relatively restrained. You see handshakes and head nods mostly. Among young people you might see a hug exchange too, but that’s probably about it.
Now growing up here, my Chinese friends always joke with me about giving me a Chinese hug. They would reach across and squeeze my arm, like this. Now that’s quite an affectionate way to acknowledge someone here.
OK it’s time to look at some of today’s language points. And to start off with we have a tone alert. Now did all of you notice that both 你 and 好 are third tone characters? There is a rule for two third tones if they come next to each other. It’s way too hard to make your voice to them side by side, try it really quick, nǐ-hǎo, now try it quickly, it’s hard, huh?
Well, when two third tones are side by side, the first one becomes a second tone like this ní-hǎo. It’s easier, isn’t it. So just remember, if it’s a third tone and a third tone next to each other nǐ-hǎo, it changes to a second tone and a third tone ní-hǎo. Let’s look at some more examples.
We have another tone alert. Did you hear a tone for 们. This demonstrates what some call the fifth tone in Chinese but it’s not really a tone. In Chinese it is called 轻声 which literally means light sound it’s a toneless tone or a neutral tone 们. Now, because we have 们 separating 你 and 好, they both go back to being third tone: nǐ-men-hǎo ní-hǎo nǐ-men-hǎo. Can you hear the difference?
Now here is the test for your ears. Did any of you notice that when 小明 said hello to the person at the store, and the person on the bus he said 您 sounds a lot like 你 doesn’t it. Well they both mean you. However 您 is the formal way to say you in Chinese. Now I know some European languages like French for example have the formal and informal you*4. Chinese is the same. You say 您 when you want to be respectful especially to people you don’t know. 您好. Let’s look at some more 您 examples.
All right, that just about wraps everything up for today. Now don’t worry if your head is swimming in the vast ocean of the Chinese language, we’ll go over as much as we can what has been talked about in later episodes of 成长汉语.
And you can always visit our website to review. Now please feel free to also send us letters about the show, or anything you might have questions about or any comments you might like to make. We’d love to hear from you. And whenever there is time at the end of our show, some of those letters will be read out aloud, and I’ll do my best answer any questions you might have. Good luck with your Chinese studies everybody, 加油, see you all next time, 再见.