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Begin Learning Chinese: The First Fifty Words

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 10/10/2012

What are the 50 most-used Chinese words? Build up your vocabulary by learning the words on this list. The best way to learn Chinese is by incorporating these words into your everyday usage. Learning a new language can be an easy task if you practice often.

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    What's Relevant to You?

    One of the quickest ways to become fluent in any new language is by learning some of the most useful vocabulary words so you can immediately begin communicating. You will be able to make yourself understood on a basic leve, and then navigate onward from there. So what are the 50 most used Chinese words? It depends on the situation. If you're going to a restaurant, for instance, you'll want to know words that will help you order something to eat. If you're traveling to China, you'll need to know travel words and phrases so you can get around without too much trouble. The point is, you need to make up your own list. In this article, we'll take a look at some general Chinese words that we think will be useful to you.

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    Chinese Characters

    Chinese can seem like a rather daunting language, particularly when you're starting out. Unlike English, in which you only have to tackle 26 alphabet letters, there are over 60,000 characters in the Chinese language. The bounty of characters has baffled the Chinese themselves, and there probably aren't that many Chinese people who are completely well-versed in all 60,000, who use the 60,000 characters every day as part of their regular spoken and written vocabulary.

    This is a boon for the Chinese language learner. You only need to know about 3,000 to 5,000 of these characters to pass as reasonably well educated in the language. Knowing 3,000 characters would help you read a modern Chinese newspaper, and knowing 5,000 characters would help you get started with a Chinese literary work.

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    Chinese Words

    The characters are used to form the words. Let's look at fifty of the most useful words for you to know:

    1. (to) Study - xuéxí

    2. Afternoon - xiàwŭ

    3. Age - suì

    4. Airport - fēijīchăng

    5. Book - shū

    6. Breakfast - zăocān

    7. Brothers - xiōngdì

    8. Cafe - kāfēiguăn

    9. China - zhōngguó

    10. Chinese - zhōngwén

    11. Chinese characters - hànzi

    12. City - chéngshì

    13. Country - guójiā

    14. Dinner - wăncān

    15. Direction - fāngxiàng

    16. Doctor - yī shēng

    17. English - yīngyŭ

    18. Evening - wănshàng

    19. Father - fùqīn

    20. Friend - péngyou

    21. Good - hăo

    22. Goodbye - zàijiàn

    23. Hello - nĭ hăo

    24. Help - jiùmìng (call for help)/bāngzhù (need help)

    25. Hospital - yīyuàn

    26. Hotel – lǚguăn

    27. I - wŏ

    28. Mister- xiānsheng

    29. Money - qián

    30. Month - yuè

    31. Morning - zăoshàng

    32. Mother - mŭqīn

    33. My - wŏ de

    34. name - míngzi

    35. No - bù

    36. Please - qing

    37. Police - jĭngchá

    38. Restaurant - fàndiàn

    39. Room - kèfáng

    40. Shop/Store - shāngdiàn

    41. Sisters - jiĕmèi

    42. Taxi - chūzū qìchē

    43. Teacher - lăoshī

    44. Thank you - xièxie

    45. Vehicle - chēzi

    46. Water - shuĭ

    47. We - wŏmen

    48. Word - zì

    49. Year - nián

    50. Yes - shi

    The key to learning is to make these words part of your everyday conversation. The more you use a language, the more proficient you become at it.

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    Here are some sites that can help you learn Chinese:

    BBC - Chinese: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/chinese/

    Zhongwen: http://www.zhongwen.com/

    Learning Chocolate: http://www.learningchocolate.com/?st_lang=zh-hans