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Over the past few months, we’ve had a lot of Chinese geography lessons. In case you missed them, here are the links to those posts:
Now that we’ve learned so many names for countries, states/provinces, and cities, I figured it’s a good time to review how to talk about where you’re from, your nationality, and the language you speak.
As a foreigner in China, people always want to know what country (国家 – guó jiā) you’re from. In fact, this is probably the #1 question you’ll be asked if traveling/living in the Middle Kingdom. If you go back and study the previous posts with the Chinese names for various countries, you’ll notice that the character 国 (guó) comes up again and again:
A lot of Chinese names for countries use the character 国 as a short form of 国家. Other Chinese names for countries are more of a transliteration; i.e. the Chinese name uses characters that sound like the actual name. Go back and review the previous posts and you’ll see plenty of those:
How can you ask/answer about where a person is from? Here are some common questions and the corresponding answers:
To answer those questions, simply add the name of your country after the …
Learning nationalities in English can be a bit complicated. For some countries, you add -an (American, Korean, Australian), for others you use -ese (Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese), and so on. Thankfully, it’s much easier in Chinese – simply add the character for person (人 – rén):
To say your nationality, it’s quite simple:
When it comes to talking about languages (语言 – yǔ yán), interestingly enough the most difficult one to talk about in Chinese is… Chinese. There are quite a few Chinese names for the Chinese language:
Of course, when it comes to speaking Chinese, there are many different variations you could be talking about. The two most common are:
Thankfully it’s a bit easier when you’re talking about other languages. For pretty much any other language, you’ll use the character 语 (yǔ):
As you can see, some languages use a shortened form of the country name, while others use the whole name. Here’s how you would ask/answer about what language you speak:
After studying this post, you should be able to confidently ask and answer about countries, nationalities, and languages in Chinese. What other topics would you like to learn about here on the blog? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get to your requests as soon as possible.