Want to impress your Chinese host/hostess/guests and you have one day to prepare yourself? No fear! This article teaches you how to speak Mandarin like Chinese in a day. Chances are you have a translator or your Chinese friends know how to speak English, but you can still shine by doing what this article is about to tell you.
1. Learn the "four tones" of Mandarin as much as you can.
There are many resources on the web that tell about the four tones. Search Google for "tones of Mandarin Chinese". These are the basics of Mandarin pronunciation. Do not be too concerned if you cannot get it right, it can be very hard. A bit of "foreign" tone makes you sound interesting, and are what set you apart from a silly foreigner trying to speak Chinese and a fluent Chinese speaker.
2. Learn to say "Ni Hao".
"Ni Hao" literally translates into "You Good" and can be a very generic greeting term. It is pronounced like "nee how". You can say it when you shake hands with your Chinese friends, when you walk by them in the hallway, when you sit down next to a new friend at dinner, etc.etc. It can be loosely used in all situations where you may say "hi" or "hello" in American English.
3. Learn to say "Xie Xie".
"Xie Xie" means "Thank you". It is pronounced like "Shi-e Shi-e" or "Zhi-Zhi"(if that is not too confusing). It can be used whenever you want to say thank you to someone.
4. Learn to say "Bu Ke Qi".
"Bu Ke Qi" means "You're welcome". It is pronounced like "Boo Ker(British accent without the "r") Chi".
5. Learn to say "Tai Hao Le!"
"Tai Hao Le!" means "Wonderful!". It is pronounced like "Thai Hao Lah". This can be applied to many situations as you may suspect, such as someone agreeing to see you again, someone giving you a business card, etc..
6. Learn to say "Na Li Na Li".
"Na Li Na Li" is a standard response to any compliment, including compliments to your spouse. Do not say "Xie Xie" (Thank you) when you receive compliments. It is not the Chinese way. Instead, say "Na Li Na Li" (pronounced as "Nah Lee Nah Lee").
7. Learn to pronounce your name in Chinese.
Ask your Chinese friend ahead of time how to say your name in Chinese and practice it. Then as you shake hands with your Chinese host/hostess/guests, say "Wo Jiao [insert your name here]". "Wo Jiao" means "My name is". For instance, you say say "Wuo Jiao John" but pronounce "John" the Chinese way which actually sounds like "Yue Hahn". You can also say "Wuo de ming zi shi [insert name here], which also means "my name is."
8. Say every phrase twice.
Except for "Na Li Na Li" which is already a repetitive phrase, everything above can be said twice to make you really sound like a native. For instance, instead of saying "Ni Hao", say "Ni Hao Ni Hao!". Instead of "Xie Xie", say "Xie Xie Xie Xie" (I know it may sound crazy but trust me, this is how a native Chinese would say it.) This is done to put emphasis on the words. Say the phase a little softer the second time, and keep repeating to fade out smoothly. So here you go again: Ni Hao Ni Hao! Xie Xie Xie Xie! Bu Ke Qi Bu Ke Qi! Tai Hao Le Tai Hao Le!
9. Say "Da Jia Hao!" when opening a speech.
You may be asked to make a speech. Open the speech by saying "Da Jia Hao!" which can be loosely translated into "How's everyone today?", "Hello everyone!", ""Wish everyone well!", or "Good day, everyone!"
10. Use a Chinese phrase before you answer wherever you can.
Chances are you have a translator or your Chinese friends speak English. Even then, try to use a Chinese phrase before you move on to talking normally in English. This will really differentiate you from any other foreigners they meet and leave them very good impressions.