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Move your mouse pointer over (or touch, from your mobile device) any Chinese words or phrases to get a translation.

Adam: Hello everyone, my name is Adam.

Kirin: 大家好. 我是 Kirin.

Adam:  Today we’re going to continue where we left off in lesson three talking about countries, nationalities and their languages. We’re now going to try and put together what we know so far. We know how to say “I am” and we know how to say the names of a few countries. So with that in mind, how would you say “I am American”?

Kirin: 我是美国人.

Adam: Good, I hope you got that right. Let’s try another one. How would you say “Are you Chinese?”

Kirin: 你是中国人吗?

Adam: As you can see, adding the at the end turns a statement into a question. Today, we’re going to try and answer some yes or no questions. Now one big difference in Chinese is that there is no definitive word for “yes” or “no,” so you have to follow a particular syntax when answering such questions. Now if you wanted to answer in the affirmative as in “Yes, I am Chinese,” you would reply with:

Kirin: 是,我是中国人.

Adam: Now, there are no new words there as you can see. We reply in affirmative by restating the verb in question – in this case it’s the verb “to be” or . So the reply here means “Yes, I am Chinese.” Let’s try another one. Ask if I am Canadian.

Kirin: 你是加拿大人吗?

Adam: So if you wanted to reply “yes, I’m Canadian” you would say:

Kirin: 是,我是加拿大人.

Adam: Now, we’ll learn the word used for the negative, which is quite simply


Adam: which is a fourth tone.


Adam: by adding in front of a verb, you negate it. So let’s ask the question “Are you British?”

Kirin: 你是英国人吗?

Adam: To reply in the negative we’d say:

Kirin: 不是. 我不是英国人.

Adam: On our website, in the notes link for lesson 4 you’ll find several more examples using this structure (and an explanation of why the tone changes in ). Let’s now learn a couple of new verbs. The first one is…

Kirin: .

Adam: This is a fourth tone.

Kirin: .

Adam: Now the verb means “to be able to do something.” We’ll use it in a moment. The other verb I want to introduce is:

Kirin: .

Adam: This is a first tone.

Kirin: .

Adam: The verb means “to speak.” So putting these two verbs together, we get:

Kirin: 会说

Adam: …which means “to be able to speak.” So with that in mind, can you guess what this next question means?

Kirin: 你会说中文吗?

Adam: Again?

Kirin: 你会说中文吗?

Adam: So by the at the end, we know that it’s a question. Now the literal meaning is “You can speak Chinese?” or simply “Can you speak Chinese?” Now knowing what we know about how we answer such questions how would you answer that question in the affirmative?

Kirin: . 我会说中文.

Adam: And how would you reply “No, I can’t speak Chinese”?

Kirin: 不会. 我不会说中文.

Adam: Now perhaps as beginners, your current answer to the question of “Can you speak Chinese?” may be “no,” but we hope to change that over time. So to build up your confidence, perhaps you would like to answer with “I can speak a little.” So how do we say “a little”?

Kirin: 一点.

Adam: That’s a first tone followed by a third tone.

Kirin: 一点.

Adam: So how would you say “I can speak a little”?

Kirin: 我会说一点.

Adam: Great, so let’s do some practice with the vocabulary we have learned so far. First, I’ll ask you to translate the following from English to Chinese. Try this yourself before listening to the answer.

Are you Australian?

Kirin: 你是澳洲人吗?

Adam: No, I am American.

Kirin: 不是, 我是美国人.

Adam: Can you speak French?

Kirin: 你会说法文吗?

Adam: No I can’t. I can speak English.

Kirin: 不会. 我会说英文.

Adam: Great, so hopefully you got all that. We’ll now teach the possessive particle. We know how to say “ I ”:

Kirin: .

Adam: How do we say “my”?

Kirin: 我的.

Adam: So you can see how easy that is. Just add the neutral tone and you get the possessive. Similarly, to say “your” we can say:

Kirin: 你的.

Adam: Good, I think you can see how easy that is and how it extends to other pronouns. A more detailed list can be found in the notes link for Lesson 4 on our website. Now based on what you’ve learned, what do you think the following statement means?

Kirin: 你的中文说得很好.

Adam: This one may be a little tricky but if you look at the literal translation you should able to figure it out. “Your Chinese speak’s very good.” Basically, that means “Your Chinese is very good.” You could use that same construction to tell someone their English is very good too.

Now you may notice that the grammar of this sentence is different from English. Many times in Chinese, the subject is presented first, followed by what’s special about it. So in English we might say “It’s raining heavily today.” In Chinese that would become “Today, rain falls heavily” or something like that. Don’t worry too much about that at this point. Our goal is to give you more examples to get a better feel for the language rather than studying boring grammar rules that you’re not likely to remember. As the course advances, the notes section of each lesson will summarize the highlights and grammar patterns of each lesson. So don’t fright.

Now let’s look at if you just wanted to tell someone “I’m sorry, my Chinese isn’t very good.” First, we need the word for “I’m sorry.” It’s actually the same word they use for “excuse me.” And how do we say that, Kirin?

Kirin: 对不起.

Adam: So it’s actually three characters. The first two are fourth tones and the last character is a third tone. However since this word is said a lot, and usually quite quickly, the central character actually adopts a neutral tone, making it fourth, neutral and third tones.

Kirin: 对不起.

Adam: So that means “I’m sorry” or “excuse me.”

Now to say “My Chinese isn’t very good,” you actually have all the vocabulary necessary to say that. Let’s see if we can put it together.

Kirin: 我的中文说得不好.

Adam: Again.

Kirin: 我的中文说得不好.

Adam: So again, same structure as before – my Chinese, speak’s not good.

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