Remember how to speak by saying things you shouldn’t.
While learning Mandarin, pay special attention to the retroflex finals. That’s the “r” sound at the end of some words, a famed part of the Beijing accent. In parts of China even the local people cannot pronounce them properly, but they are still very important. In some cases, if you misuse them, you may make a fool of yourself. Check out these examples:
yǎn (眼 eye) yǎnr (眼儿 tiny hole)
xìn (信 to believe) xìnr (信儿 message)
tóu (头 head) tóur (头儿the leader; the beginning)
huà (画to draw) huàr (画儿 picture)
A supplement for grammar practice
In our daily lives, I always hear that when foreign speakers try to say a complete sentence in Chinese, they sometimes don’t know how to say each word in the correct order. The following are some sentence patterns and examples for you to follow.
subj. + time + v.
wǒ xià wǔshàng kè.
I have classes this afternoon.
subj. + time + v. + place
wǒ míngtiān qù Běijīng.
I will go to Beijing tomorrow.
subj. + time + 在 + place + v. + subj.
wǒ xiàwǔ sāndiǎn zài bàngōngshì děng nǐ
I will wait for you at the office at 3p.m.
Mnemonic devices that work
The radical 囗, pronounced wéi, means country. Inside this big frame, there is something very important or something of great value. Characters with this radical have the meaning of surround or around.
wéi围—surround. 韦 pronounced wéi,it means being attacked from both sides. The whole character originally means the city isattacked by the enemies from all the directions. But right now it only means surround.
guó国 – country. 玉 pronounced yù. It means “jade” and stands for something of great value. The whole character means that a country is a place that is vast and abundant.
zhōngguó shìgè měilì de guójiā.
中国 是个 美丽 的 国家。
China is a beautiful country.
Conversation starters for Guangdongers
ding6 gwo3 toi4 yau4 It means, “As focused as carrying a drum of cooking oil.” There are times that people just shouldn’t be calm and collected, but some friends or co-workers can pull off the cool hand in any situation. Use this phrase to express a disbelief for this supernatural strength to keep it together. (Start ding with an even mid-low tone, gwo is even, but a little higher, and follow up with toi and yau both dropping low at the end.)