To get started with how to say hello in Chinese, it’s important to know PinYin (the romanization/phonetics/alphabet) of the Chinese language.
For example, you can see what the PinYin looks like by viewing the letters written beneath the characters:
The pronunciation is similar to “knee how,” but notice that there are also markings above some of the vowels. This let’s you know the tone to use when speaking the words in Chinese. The tone marking you see above is known as the third tone or the “falling and rising tone.” That is because your voice must fall and rise in pitch in order to say the tone correctly. For more on how to Learn to Speak Chinese , read this eBook on your tablet with the Kindle app.
You’ll see what I mean by taking a look at this video on hello in Chinese . . .
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Hello in Chinese–the Polite Version
This more polite version of hello in Chinese should always be used when addressing the elderly, but is also very appropriate at formal occasions for your peers or those to whom you wish to show respect. Since this phrase is SO close to the common greeting, you might want to pay special attention to the first Chinese character. Instead of “nĭ” said with the third tone, you will say “nín” said with the second tone which is a rising pitch. The pronunciation is much like “knee” but with an added “n” on the end, making it “kneen.”
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Although hello in Chinese is the standard form of how to say hello in Chinese, you can also say “hi” in Chinese. But, you will find that hi in Chinese is used much differently than where we would normally say hi!
I’ll try to explain it by situations so that you can see what I mean.
Hi in Chinese: in Conversation
First, you can say hi in Chinese almost like we would say, “Hey!” As in “Hey, how are you?” you could appropriately use the first version of hi in Chinese.
Notice that the Chinese character for hi in Chinese is pronounced “wèi” which sounds like our version of “way” but said with a falling fourth tone. That means that you should start just higher than your normal speaking voice and then drop your pitch as you say the word. It’s much like sighing, so think of “sigh” as you say the word “way” and you’ll have the first hi in Chinese down without a problem!
Hi in Chinese: on the Phone
Second, you’ll find that a type of hi in Chinese is used as people answer the telephone in Mainland China. Now in other Chinese-speaking countries, this might be considered rude, but in Mainland China it’s considered practical and a part of everyday life…
So, this hi in Chinese is almost like our “yes” as we are answering the telephone where someone might say, “Yes? Hello?” The literal meaning of this Chinese character, however, is “yea” much like our modern yes, but many still consider this phrase a way to say, “Hi. Hello.” as is commonly said on the phone.
In order to say this version of hi in Chinese, it’s pronounced “wĕi” which means that you’re still going to use “way,” but that your voice will do something else! (It’s a little tricky, but it can be done)! So, to pronounce this, you would start out at your normal speaking voice, lower the pitch for a period of time, and THEN raise the pitch at the end.
I know, it’s crazy—a little like acrobatics for the voice! (Think of when you say, out of frustration “oh,” or when you might say “no” to someone to demonstrate that it’s not like that at all! This is the type of sound you’re looking for). For more on Chinese tones, visit my blog.
Now, you can see two different ways to say hi in Chinese—one almost like “hey” and the other for when answering the phone. See, the Chinese language can be quite an adventure just in saying hi in Chinese!
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Video on How Are You in Chinese
How are you in Chinese is closely linked to the Chinese phrase for hello in Chinese. The Chinese language is quite interesting when you follow some of the connections between Chinese characters or Chinese phrases! Still, you’ll find this video on how are you in Chinese easy to follow.
Review of How Are You in Chinese
From the video, you’ve gathered that asking how are you is as simple as three Chinese characters, 你好吗? Yet, saying this Chinese phrase with the right Chinese tones is probably the most important part of asking this question. With the tones said properly, though, you’re off to a great start in Mandarin Chinese! Best to you in saying, “How are you?” in Chinese!
More on How Are You in Chinese
For a less formal means of asking how are you in Chinese, you should try 你怎么样? This phrase is used when you already know someone and is closer to asking, “How have you been?” or “How’s it going?” But, if that’s what you’re trying to communicate by asking how are you in Chinese, you should probably use this phrase.
Let’s take a closer look at this more familiar Chinese phrase.
- 你 (nǐ or “knee”) is said with the falling and rising third tone for “you”
- 怎么 (zěn me or “dsen muh”) is said with the third tone and then the neutral tone for “how”
- 样 (yàng or “young”) is said with the falling forth tone and means “state or condition”
Using How Are You in Chinese
Now, whether you’re addressing someone you just met with 你好吗? or talking with someone you know pretty well and asking 你怎么样?, you’ll be able to ask, “How are you?” in Chinese properly!