What we say in Chinese

Fear not, this will be a short post. We’ve very little Mandarin. But we like to think that, along with enthusiastic head shaking and nodding, it’s enough to get by.

  • Xie, xie – thank you. Probably the thing we say more than anything else. Occasionally I have been known to use this to mean ‘delicious’, ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ as well.
  • Xin xe lan – New Zealand. The answer to the question we are most commonly asked. Also a kind of quasi excuse in response to all the others. If folks are ranting at you, this one is your best bet.
  • Ji ge – That one. What we say when we’ve got a picture menu.
  • Yi ge / Liang ge – One of those / two of those. What we say when we’re picking things out in a shop, or eating street food.
  • Duo shao qian – How much is it?
  • Ting bu dong – I don’t understand. In case it wasn’t already incredibly obvious.

We’ve also a reasonable handle on the numbers, Fiona more than I. Luckily counting goes up in a very logical way. We’re also pretty good at hand signals for numbers. Interestingly they count one to five on fingers just like we would, but six through ten is symbols that wouldn’t be out of place in paper-scissors-rock. Given this, we’re just enormously grateful that they ended up with a base ten number system. We’re also super thankful that written numbers are almost always in roman script.

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