Learning Chinese / Mandarin


Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China, however Cantonese is widely spoken in the southern provinces.  There are also many other dialects and minority languages in use throughout China. Prior to the allocation of your child you won’t know which province you will be visiting.  So which language should you learn?  

Arguably Mandarin is the best choice.  Being the official national language, Mandarin is understood if not spoken by most government officials. It is the language broadcasted by China Central Television and the CCTV news service can been viewed on Australia’s own SBS channel. Mandarin is also understood by residents of Shanghai where all Australian's will spend at least half of their time in China.  Written Chinese characters are largely the same in both Mandarin and Cantonese. While Cantonese does have some dialect specific characters, a good Mandarin phrase book will enable you to converse with a Cantonese speaker by pointing to characters.  Mandarin courses are readily available in South Australia and inexpensive audio-tapes and compact disks are also available from most good book stores.

Below are some phrases that are particularly useful for adoptive parents.  They are provided in “Pinyan” which is the most widely accepted romanisation of the Chinese language.  Most also include the Pinyan symbols to show the 5 tones of Mandarin.   These are displayed below for your reference.  Have fun practicing your Mandarin, as it is sure to enrich your experience and that of your child.

The 5 Tones of Mandarin as Displayed in Pinyan

  ˉ Flat Tone       ́ Rising Tone      ˇ Falling-Rising Tone      ̀Falling Tone         No Tone

Mandarin for Family Members

Mandarin for a Young Child or Baby

Mother. Maˉ Ma Don't cry baby. Bù Kuˉ  Baˇo Baˇo
Father. Bà Ba It's Ok. Bú Yaò Jinˇ
Baby. Baˇo Baˇo I love you. Woˇ  aì  niˇ
Son. Eŕ Zi Pretty Baby.   Piaò  Liang BaˇoBaˇo
Daughter. Nuuˇeŕ Come here. Laí
Paternal Grandmother Naiˇ Naiˇ Let's go. Zouˇba
Maternal Grandmother Laoˇ Lao Are you Thirsty? NiˇKeˇMa?
Paternal Grandfather. Yé Ye Are you Hungry? NiˇÈ Ma?
Maternal Grandfather. Waì Gongˉ Are you Tired? Niˇ Leì  Ma?
Big Sister. JieˇJie Does it Hurt? Tenǵ  Ma?
Little Sister. Meì Mei Do you need to wee? Yaò  Niaò  Ma?
Big Brother. Geˉ Ge Do you need to poo? Yaò  Laˉ  Ma?
Little Brother. Dì Di No. Bù
Paternal Auntie. Guˉgu Yes. Xinǵ
Maternal Auntie. Yí    
Paternal Uncle. Shuˉ shu    
Maternal Uncle. Jiù jiu    


Mandarin for Adoption Officials/Carers

Mandarin for the Older Child

Hi, (Name). Wei, (name) Let's go. Zouˇba

Hello (polite).

ni hao

nin hao

We are your forever family now. Jinˉhoù  woˇ men jiù  shì  niˇ yongˇ yuanˇ de jiaˉ
Thank You. xie xie You are safe with us. Hé weˇ men zaì  yì  qiˇ henˇ anˉ quań
I need your help. wo xu yao ni de bang zhu You have to wait! Bié  jí
Thank you for your help. xie xie ni de bang zhu Cheer up. Gaoˉ xing̀  yi   ̀  dianrˇ
Thank you for loving and taking care of my child. wo fei chang gan xie ni dui wo hai zi de ai hu he guanzhao Be good! Guaiˉ yì  dianrˇ!
I feel very fortunate. wo fei chang xing yun Give me the toy. Baˇ wań jù  geiˇ woˇ
I will always love her. wo yong yuan ai ta What do you want to eat? Xiangˇchiˉ sheń  me?
I will always love him. wo yong yuan ai tai Do you want to go to the toilet? Xiang  ́  qù cè  suoˇma?
I have come from Australia to adopt this beautiful child. wo cong aodaoliya shou yang zhe ge piao liang de xiao Let's read a book. Zań  men niaǹ  shiˉ la
I am Australian. wo shi aodaliyaren It's time for bed. Gai ˉ shuì   jiaò  le
I live in South Australia. wo zhu zai zai nan ao zhou Let me pick you up.  Rang ̀ woˇ baò  bao niˇ
I live in Adelaide. wo zhu zai adeleide Pick up the toy. Baˇ wań  jù  jianˇ qiˇ lai
Can you please take a picture of us? fan ni pai yi zhang zhao pian Put the toy(s) there. Baˇ wań  jù  fang̀  zaì  nar̀
Goodbye. zaijian This is your …….. Zhè  shì  niˇ de ……..