Hi everyone 你们好. Welcome back to another episode of Growing up with Chinese 成长汉语. First off*1, I’d like to thank all of you who wrote in after watching our first show. It really is great to hear from you. And very helpful to all of us working on the show. So keep your comments and questions coming our way.
After today’s show, I’ll be able to thank all of you in Chinese because our topic for today is, that’s right, thank yous. Now last time we met 小明 and saw how he greeted different people using the phrases 你好 hello, 你们好 hello everyone, 爷爷早上好 good morning grand father, and 您好 hello using a formal you. Today we are going to meet Mike, as he makes his way to 小明’s apartment accompanied by his teacher. And yes, he has a lot of thank yous to be handing out today. Let’s take a look.
All right let’s break down what we heard. The first phrase is pretty simple. 谢谢 it means thanks. Now I know some people have a hard time with the pronunciation of 谢谢. You can think of that kind of like the word she and eh. she-eh she-eh. Not too hard, right? 谢谢. Now if you add a 你 or 您 to the end of 谢谢, it becomes thank you informal or thank you formal. 谢谢你 that would be informal, 谢谢您 is formal.
不用谢. This means you are welcome. 不 is the negative or no. 用 is a verb we will cover many many times and in this context it means need. So put it together 不用 means no need. So 不用谢 literally is no need to thank, or no thanks necessary or you are welcome.
不客气 you are welcome. 不 again is no or negative 客气 means polite. So 不客气 literally means no polite. Now to be polite in China is something that you do with strangers. You make sure to be polite with strangers. But when it comes to people who are close to you whether the family or friends, being polite is something too kind of avoid. After all, you don’t want to make the people close to you feel like you’re treating them like strangers. So as a result of this cultural tendency, too not be polite is a phrase to use as you are welcome, 不客气.
So thats not too hard to follow, right? Let’s watch the action once more.
OK everyone let’s take a look at today’s vocabulary.
Before we go into today’s specific vocabulary words, let’s take a minute to go over pinyin or how we write Chinese using the Roman alphabet as opposed to using characters. Now a Chinese character or Chinese syllable word can be divided into two parts: the initial and the final.
For example. Let’s take a look ming. The word ming is composed of the initial m and the final ing. Now there are only twenty-three initial sounds in Chinese and many of them are pronounced quite similarly to how we pronounce them in English. For example, b as in bottle, p as in part, d as in dog, t as in time, g as in go but it’s always hard, never soft, and k as in key. Now there are more similar sounds but instead of listing all of them for you, let’s go over some of the initial sounds that aren’t so similar.
For example, z as in zang or zan. Its pronunciation is quite similar to the ds sound in English like “cards.” But you need to move the tip of your tongue closer to the back of your teeth zang zan.
OK, c as in cang or can. It’s similar to the ts in “its” cang.
Now here is an interesting one q as in qiu or qiong. It’s similar to the ch sound in English kind of like ah-choo, qiong.
Zh as in zhang or zhou, think of the j sound in judge and you got this one zhang.
Now x. As in xin or xie. Now this sound in somewhere in the middle of sh and s and this one is a little bit tricky because the initial sh is pronounced like shh as in English. X is some more in the middle. So let’s take shang and xia as an example. Here’s the two words shang and xia. shang. xia. shang. xia. Can you hear the difference? It’s not major I know. But it is there and it’ll come with practice.
We also have r as in rang or rou. It’s quite similar to the r sound in run but the rs are a little softer so try moving your tongue more to the back of your mouth rang, rou.
OK. Now for a complete list of all initials in pinyin, you can find them online on our website. They will be coming up as we move along in our shows though, so you will all have plenty of time to practice. For now, let’s go into our vocabulary words of the day.
- 不 no, or used with other characters to make something negative. bù
- 谢谢 thank you. xiè xie
- 用 to use. yòng
- 客气 polite. kè qi
Can any of you remember, some of the first words your parents or family members taught you when you were small. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but if I had to guess, “thank you” is probably among your list of words. In many cultures, thank you is probably a phrase that you say the most everyday.
If someone holds doors for you, you say thank you. If you order something to eat at restaurant, you say thank you to your server. If your parents do something for you, you say thank you. I can remember when I was small, my mom said to me after someone gave me something “what do you say?” and I said “thank you.”
In China, rules for saying thank you are kind of opposite. In a nutshell*2, the logic behind saying thank you in China is that the closer you are to someone, or the more know the person, the less you say thank you. Interesting, huh?
The way Chinese people explain this is that if your mom does something for you for example, you don’t need to say thank you. She knows you’re grateful. If you say thank you, you’re distancing yourself from her.
And the same goes with friends. You don’t really thank friends here. If I say thank you to my best Chinese girl friend, she gets all grumpy*3 with me. She’ll respond by saying “wow, we’re friend aren’t we? We do things for each other, you don’t need to thank me. If you thank me, it makes me feel like we are not friends.” Yes, literally that’s what she says.
All right, that wraps up our cultural spotlight section for this show, and now, let’s move into some language points.
We have a tone alert for 不. When you use it on its own*4 不 is fourth tone bù. When 不 is used before another fourth tone, it becomes second tone: bú xiè or bú yòng xiè. Can you hear how it changed?
Now, this specific rule doesn’t apply to two fourth tones all across the board*5. Remember how we discussed, two third tones turned into second and third like 你好 right? That’s on all across the board rule. In this case, 不 is special. It’s an exception in the world of fourth tones: búxiè búkèqi búyòngxiè. Don’t worry. We’ll go over it again in an episodes to come. Let’s look at some examples first.
客气. Now there’s no definite rule for when a fourth tone turns neutral. And if you would say xièxiè or kèqì as two definite fourth tones people with still have no problem understanding what’s you are saying. It’s more above feeling kind of rule, which I know when you are learning a new language can be very frustrating. It’s always nice to have clear rules for when things change. But don’t worry, we’ll try to go over this kind of change as much as we possibly can. And soon you all have an instinctive feeling for when a neutral tone is needed. Let’s look at some examples.
The taxi driver said 没事, when Mike’s teacher thank to him for helping with Mike’s bag. 没事 means it’s nothing, that’s all right. Just like we can say in English that’s OK, you’re welcome, or it’s nothing, you don’t need to thank me. You can say 没事, 不用谢 or 没事, 不客气 in Chinese.
OK that brings us to the end of today’s show. I hope you all had fun. Now don’t forget to visit our website for reviewing or simply for fun and please keep your feedback coming in. See you all next time. 加油, 再见.