Greeting in Chinese

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Y: Perfect Chinese your way, in only five minutes a day. Welcome to Chinese Studio, a brand new Chinese learning program on China Radio International. I'm Yajie.

Cam: Hi, everyone, I'm Cam. This daily show will teach Chinese at the elementary level, which is very appropriate, considering I'm just starting to learn myself! Hi Yajie, may I have the honour of suggesting our first topic?

Cam: Sorry.... I was kidding. I guess it's too soon for that! In fact, the first thing I wanna learn is all about greetings. How to say hello?

Y: I think it is also where most foreigners want to start learning Chinese. Now let's check Key words of the day!

Key words in Pin Yin and Chinese Characters

Today we'll learn a few of popular expressions of greeting.Ni hao, Cam.Ni hao, Nin hao,Director. Ni hao.Hi, Cam, Ni hao ma?Wo hen hao. Xie xie! All in today's Chinese Studio.

Y: In Chinese there are several different ways to say hello. The most popular expression is Ni hao.It means "hi" or "hello" and can be used at any time, on any occasion and by anybody. It can be used on either a stranger or a person you've already known.

Cam: When somebody says Ni hao to you, what should you reply?

Y: Right, your reply should be same-Ni hao. Ni means "you". Hao means "good". Together "you- good":Ni hao.

Cam: The pronunciation of Ni is similar to that of the English word "knee", and hao similar to "how".

Y: But the tone is totally different. That's because Chinese is a tonal language. It has four basic tones.

Cam: That's what I always have a problem with. It's so confusing!

Y: Don't worry. We'll have plenty chances to practice the tones in the future.

Cam: Ni hao means "Hi, hello". Actually "Hi" is also used in Chinese to make a greeting. So when you forget how to say hello in Chinese, it still works if you say Hi. The reply can be same.

Y: Hi can be used on anybody, at any time, like Ni hao. And both of them are very causal expressions. So when greeting someone older, or, in a formal manner, we usually say Nin Hao. Nin is the polite form of Ni.

Y: Of course, after you say Nin Hao, you won't expect the same words as a reply. Actually the reply can be Ni hao, or simply a nod.

C: If you want to greet somebody you have already known, you can also say Ni hao ma?Remember, like the English expression "How are you?", it's only used on acquaintances.

Y: Ni hao ma?How are you? It's Ni hao plus ma. Like a question mark, Ma is a sign of a question in Chinese.
Cam: In a reply to Ni hao ma? we usually say Wo hen hao. I'm very well.

Y: Wo is I, Hen means "very", and Hao is "good", remember? So word for word, Wo hen hao means "I-very good."

C: Ni hao ma, Yajie?

Y: Wo hen hao, xie xie!Thanks. Xie xie.

Key words reminder:

Hi, Ni hao, is the most popular greeting that can be used at any time, on any occasion and by anybody. Nin hao, also means hello. It's a more polite expression you can use when meeting someone older. Ni hao ma?is what you can use on somebody you have already known.

C: In fact there are in China some special ways to say hello, which may confuse we foreigners if we don't know the local culture.

Y: Yes. For instance, "Ni chi le ma?" - "have you eaten" . You'll hear this very very often in Beijing. But never be serious to answer "Yes, I've eaten blah blah blah at my dinner." Don't play fool.

C: In fact, Ni chi le ma? Have you eaten? - is simply a casual greeting like Ni hao. It's like we Canadians always talk about weather in our daily greetings. But this doesn't mean we're all meteorologists. Got it?

Cam: Well, that's it for today. One more important thing, you can win a gift by answering the question of the day: What's the difference between Ni haoand Nin hao?