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Business Travel in China


In China there are eight major dialects, however almost all people here speak, or at least understand, Putonghua (Mandarin), the national language that is based on the Beijing dialect. Pinyin - the Chinese system of romanization has been adopted since 1958, and it is helpful for foreigners learning Mandarin and for speed reading. All major roads are signposted in pinyin - which makes it quite easy to get around.

Many students and young people study English or other foreign languages, but few have a chance to pratice with native speakers. Although on the increase, the amount of people that you will meet on the street who can handle English are still few. If you are desperate, most top end hotels will have English speakers who will be happy to help. If you have the time and the patience it may be worth taking Chinese language courses or purchasing an English-Chinese Dictionary (Ying-Han cidian). The best travel/beginners dictionary is probably the pocket-sized Oxford University Press/The Commercial Press version (little red book!), that can be bought both abroad and in large bookstores in China.

Throughout we have used a system that relies upon Pinyin. There are in fact four tones that are used with Putonghua, but for the sake of simplification we have omitted them from our content. This may occasionally lead to confusion, but normally it will only take a few tries before the man on the street, the cackling taxi driver or the glaring policeman gets your gist!

Below is a list of pronunciation tips that will help you in your quest for fluency.


Pinyin Letter Approximate pronunciation
b,d,f,g,j,l, m,n,p,s,t,w,y approximately as in English
c like ts in pits
h like ch in Scottish loch
q like ch in chip
r like the English r, but with tip of tongue turned up and back, something like the sound of the a in pleasure
x like the sh in ship
z like ds in kids
zh like j in joke


Pinyin Letter Approximate pronunciation
a like a in car, but with no r sound
e like e in her, but with no r sound
i ee in bee
2.not pronounced after ts, r,s,ds,ch,sh,j
o like o in o
u like oo in spoon
šč like ee in bee, but with lips closely rounded
šče like ee in bee, but with lips closely rounded + e