How To Drink in Chinese

20 May

What constitute the most important words of a language is inherently subjective. If you come to party, this article will come in handy.

Learning mandarin is considered a very difficult undertaking my most people. This is true. It is a difficult undertaking. There are however many ways to make it simpler. The best of these ways is making the content relevant. What do I mean when I say relevant? I am talking about personalized content that target the words that you need to do the things you are looking to accomplish by learning mandarin. By targeting these words you open yourself to practicing while studying and you reach your intended destination sooner, after all, a language is not an ambition in its own right but a tool to succeed in a new country.

For one of my best friends, David, this was not however really the case. He came to learn Mandarin, travel and party. Which, in some ways, actually constitute such an instance where there is an exception that proves rule. He did learn relevant vocabulary, which we will soon get into. He did travel and he really succeeded in partying a lot.

Mandarin studies are a passion of mine, so I tend to write one or two of these articles every day. The subjects vary of course, but this topic is new to me, but lets do it. Ladies and gentlemen: how to drink in Mandarin Chinese.

The first two words that you have to learn are these: gan bei. The Chinese for “cheers”, literally meaning dry bottom – is Gan Bei. It is used all over The Middle Kingdom, for all types of alcohol beverages. It is however the case, that most Chinese people drink only one type of spirit, so it is for this drink that it most used. This drink is not a drink in the cocktail sense of the word, as it is unmixable due to its abhorrent taste. Mind you, I have actually never to date tried an expensive manifestation of this drink. I am of course talking about the famous Bai Jiu – literally, white alcohol. I have heard a story that it can be used to remove grease from engines, but the source is of questionable merit. What is not disputed is that the high alcohol content of the spirit makes it a very potent fire starter. I have lit many BBQ’s this way myself.

The third word you need to be accustomed to is that for beer: pi jiu, which is also a common beverage of choice for the common Chinese person. As we are on the subject of popular Chinese drinks we must of course tackle the Beijing classic of Hennessey and green tea. Hennessey is pronounced Hen-ey-say, and green tea luu – cha, kind of. In pinyin, the Romanization of Chinese Mandarin, it is noted as lucha.

I am getting to age where hangovers are not that fun. It was easy in the past, in my more and more distant student days, to drink a few days in a row and simply have a beer for breakfast and be good to go. Even going to a music festival was not a big deal. Now, it distinctly is a pretty big deal. With age however come not only hangovers galore, but also wisdom, and experience tells me that drinking some water can save much hurt. Water, in Standard Mandarin is pronounced shui. If that is hard to say go ssh, like you are telling a kid to be quiet and then finish it off by a combination of wee, like super Mario, and a eyyyy, like Joey from from friends. So ssssh-weee-eyyyy.

No evening is complete, however, with out some wine right? Red wine is Hong putao jiu – literally meaning red grape alcohol. As you can probably tell the Chinese were no more inventive with their alcohol terminology than any of their other topics. This one of the ways in which learning Mandarin is not, in fact, as hard as it seems in the beginning. Targeting the words you need in your daily life is the best way forwards, and as David can attest: he now speak fluent drunk-ense.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin language Academy in Beijing that is a great option for those that want to learn Chinese Mandarin. If you are interested in more information about learning Mandarin in China, please consult the website of Beijing Gateway Academy.


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