Translate hello to Chinese.
If you are in a hurry and just want a quick answer it’s this – “Ni Hao” (pronounced like “the “ni” in the French city of “nice” and “hao” is pronounced more like “hou” or the beginning of the word “hope”). The “Ni” means you, and the “Hao” means good. So hello is literally “You Good” in Chinese!
But let’s go into a bit more depth. Let’s start with the definitions of Hello from the Cambridge Dictionary:
- Used when meeting of greeting someone
- Something said at the beginning of a phone conversation
- Said to attract attention
- Said to someone who has just done something stupid
- An expression of surprise
So let’s go through these different meanings and add our Chinese equivalent, then we will be able to translate hello to chinese:
- When greeting someone in Chinese, social status and age are more important than they are to English speakers. If the “other person” is older or senior in some way, it’s probably better to say “Nin Hao” (“Nin” rhymes with the English word “sin”). Here “nin” means you, but it is a more polite form of the word. If the other person is younger or about equal then stick with “ni hao”.
- When answering the phone you normally say “wei” which is more like “hey!” but is perfectly polite when answer the phone. Or you can do a combination and say “Wei, ni hao” (that was my personal favorite means), which is a nice way to get into a conversation.
- To attract attention, again we stick with “wei” if it’s urgent or you are shouting, it’s close to saying “HEY!!!”, can be a bit rude if uncalled for though. More politely you would probably use the person’s name, “Brian!!!” to attract their attention. Or you could use their job title, eg in a bar you would call them “lao ban” which means boss.
- In sense 4 we don’t have an equivalent word in Chinese as far as I can tell. There are millions of methods to convey sarcasm though, but usually involving grammar or beyond the scope of this article anyway.
- In sense 5, I would use a word “wa” which means “wow”, or you can even say something very close to “wow” in English and everyone will understand.