Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chinese On Call: Talking About the Phone in Mandarin

Lost in Beijing? Need to call for help?  Maybe you should have learned some simple words related to phone calls before you hopped aboard that slow boat to China! Instead you're standing on a street corner in the rain dodging bikes like a photographer trying to get an edgy snapshot of the Tour de France.

Perhaps you duck into a hotel and manage to get your point across by gesturing towards the phone (diànhuà 电话) at the front desk.  It would have been much easier if you could have just told them you wanted to make a phone call (dǎ diànhuà 打电话), but pointing at the phone and crying like a two year old at nap time seems to have done the trick.  Now you're fidgeting nervously while the phone is ringing (xiǎng le 响了).  As you wait for your travel buddy to answer (jiē 接), you start to wonder if perhaps you dialed the wrong phone number (diànhuà hàomǎ 电话号码).  The manager is looking at you like you've committed a felony and those eight cups of tea you had at that tea ceremony earlier this afternoon are starting to catch up with you.  You wonder if they would tar and feather you if you asked to use the bathroom. You hang up (guà- 挂) the phone and decide to try the number one more time - just in case you dialed wrong.  This time, it's busy (zhàn xiàn 占线)!  The manager now has steam coming out of his ears and is whispering angry things to his subordinates.  You think you heard him say something about "torches and pitchforks".  You come to the conclusion that you'd best be on your way.

As you drag your feet across the lobby, you start planning your life as a hobo.  Should you try to find another homeless person to share a cardboard box with, or should you fight for one of your own? You wonder if you could get away with living out of a nearby IKEA.  If only your Chinese had been up to snuff, you wouldn't be in this predicament!

Just then you spot a familiar face - it's your friend!  He walks up to you as if you haven't been missing for five hours and asks nonchalantly what you've been up to.  You tell him you've been lost in the city and ask him why he didn't hold the cab for you while you paid for both of your food at the restaurant where you'd eaten lunch together.  He says he thought he saw you getting into the cab in front of him.  You wonder out loud how many red headed men wearing green plaid jackets there could possibly be in Beijing - or all of China for that matter.  He tells you that the tour bus is picking everyone up at the art gallery around the corner in about twenty minutes and then pauses, turns to face you and asks, "Why didn't you think to call someone (gěi mǒurén dǎ diànhuà  给某人打电话)?" 

1.  (yìtái) diànhuà ("ee-tie dyen-hwah") - (一台)电话 phone
2.  xiǎng le ("see-ong luh") 响了 ringing 

3.  dǎ diànhuà ("dah dyen-hwah") 打电话 to make a phone call 

4.  diànhuà hàomǎ ("dyen-hwah how-mah") 电话号码 phone number 

5.  guà ("gwah")to hang up (in reference to the phone)

6.  jiē ("jyeh") to answer (in reference to the phone)

7.  zhàn xiàn ("john see-ehn") 占线 busy (in reference to the telephone)

8.  mǒurén ("moh-rehn") 某人 someone

9.  gěi mǒurén dǎ diànhuà ("gay mo-rehn dah dyen-hwah)  给某人打电话 to call someone

Did you enjoy this post?  Then you might also like How to Get Sick in Chinese

Image by Photocapy via Flickr is licensed via CC.

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