Ni hao

Meaning of the Chinese "Ni Hao!"

Real life story

She was excited about the task ahead: to greet my Chinese friends in their mother tongue. She prepared well—or at least that is what she thought—and the time came.

She just wanted to greet them with a warm:

"Nǐ hǎo!"

However, what she really said was:

"Niào!" (Urinate!)

Before talking about the mistakes she made, let's see first what "Nǐ hǎo!" means and what the two Chinese characters it is composed of respectively mean.

The meaning of: Ni Hao!

In Chinese, "Ni Hao" is written 你好. It means "Hi!", "How do you do?", "Hello!" It is an everyday greeting and is used at any time, on any occasion and by a person of any social status. The reply should also be 你好!(Ni hao!)

All about the first Chinese character

frequency 0.3644394%
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-You (singular)

There's no difference between the simplified and the traditional version of this character.

All about the second Chinese character

frequency 0.2128462%
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-Good, fine

There's no difference between the simplified and the traditional version of this character.

Remember my friend and her embarrassing experience mentioned at the outset? She made two mistakes: first, she didn't pronounce the "h" sound, and second, the tones were wrong.

You see, we're not Chinese—and our mother tongue is not a tonal language. In languages that are not tonal, such as English, a change in pitch may be used, for example, for sense stress, as a means of indicating size, distance, that a question is being asked or to express excitement, enthusiasm, sorrow or anxiety.

But in a tonal language, such as Chinese, changing the pitch may change the meaning of a word!

"Ni hao" written with stress marks (indicating tones) is Nǐhǎo, that is "Ni" in the third tone followed by "hao" in the third tone.

For more information about tones (actually everything about them), please go to the page Learn Chinese Tones—Lesson 1 and be sure to read at least until the pronunciation rule that you find in lesson 4 about two 3rd tones in succession.

I wish you like my website and go on clicking and clicking on its other sections!

Thank you! - By Giuseppe Romanazzi
Biaoyu Business Consulting Services LTD
Shanghai, China
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