Lessons 1-10

Lesson 9 你会说英语吗? Do you know how to speak English?

外语 wiyǔ Foreign language / 会 hu Able to (Can) / 写 xiě Write / 同事 tngsh Coworker /

hu connotes "the ability to do something" and is one of the three main modal verbs in Mandarin Chinese, the other two being 能 nng "can" (as in "it is possible") and 可以 kěyǐ "may" (as in "it is permissible"). Finding a corresponding word in English for the Chinese modals 会 hu, nng and 可以 kěyǐ can be a bit tricky because in spoken English we do not make such a sharp distinction between "able to", "can", and "may", as we often just use can in all three situations.

As in:
I can write, because I am not illiterate. (i.e. I have the ability to do so).
I can write, because my hand is not broken (i.e. it is possible for me to do so in these circumstances).
I can write, because no one is going to throw me in jail for it (i.e. I have the permission to do so).

The first sentence corresponds to 会 hu, as in 我会写 Wǒ hu xiě "I can write" (I have the ability to write). We will look at the other two modals in later lessons.

Example sentences:

他 不 会 说 外语。 He doesn't know how to speak a foreign language.
Tā b hu shuō wiyǔ.
He not know-how speak external-language.

杨 先生 会 讲 很多 种 语言。Mr. Yang knows how to speak many languages.
Yng xiānsheng hu jiǎng hěn duō zhǒng yǔyn.
Yang first-born know-how speak many languages.

陈 先生 不 会 说 英语。Mr. Chen doesn't know how to speak English.
Chn xiānsheng b hu shuō Yīngyǔ.
Chen first-born not know how speak English.

你 会 说 英语 吗? Do you know how to speak English?
Nǐ hu shuō Yīngyǔ ma?
You know-how speak English question?

他 会 写 汉字。He knows how to write Chinese.
Tā hu xiě hnz .
He knows-how write Han characters.

我 的 同事 会 写 汉字。My coworker knows how to write Chinese.
Wǒ de tngsh hu xiě hnz .
My same-affairs. knows-how write Han characters.

你 会 做 吗? Do you know how to do it?
Nǐ hu zu ma?
You know-how do question?

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Sound files for the example sentences:

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>> Download XL teacher reading these sentences (right click to save)

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Dialogue

A 您会说中文吗?
   Nn hu shuō Zhōngwn ma?
   Can you speak Chinese?

B 会, 我会说。
   Hu, wŏ hu shuō.
   Yes, I can speak it.

A 您会写汉字吗?
   Nn hu xiĕ hnz ma?
   Can you write Chinese?

B 不会, 我不会写。
   B hu, wŏ b hu xiĕ.
   No, I cant. I cant write it.

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Sound files for the dialogue:

>> Download LP teacher and TT teacher performing this dialogue (right click to save)

Lessons 11-20
Lessons 21-30
Lessons 31-40
Lessons 41-50
Lessons 51-60
Lessons 61-70
Lessons 71-80
Lessons 81-90
Lessons 91-100
Lessons 101-110
Lessons 111-120
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The Mandarin language is not as difficult as you might think. Theres a reason why its the worlds most spoken language! A lingua franca for much of Northern China since the Yuan dynasty, Mandarin has a simple, no-nonsense grammatical system and a vocabulary that builds upon itself. So dont be daunted! You too can speak this beautiful language.