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With Hong Kong being inexorably integrated into the greater China region, it’s only natural that our economies, markets, and business opportunities are being increasingly intertwined with that of mainland China. This is exactly why Mandarin Chinese has such value as a foreign language—it is a skill that all school children in Hong Kong have been required to learn for years now, as well as consistently a top language requirement in job postings. While locals may have learnt Mandarin Chinese simply by assimilation, many expats working in Hong Kong would not have had the chance.
Fear not, because the experts at Q Language have come up with a handy list of 10 common Mandarin Chinese phrases that will be helpful in the workplace. We’ve included the pinyin pronunciations as well as example usages, so you can sound like a pro the next time you speak to a mainland Chinese client or colleague!
Pinyin: qǐng jìn
Meaning: Come in, please.
This is pretty self-explanatory and is the standard expression used when inviting somebody into a space, be it your office, the meeting room, or even your apartment. The phrase is usually preceded with the person you’re addressing, and you can alternatively say “请进来 (qǐng jìn lái)” to sound slightly less formal and proper, while still being professional.
Pinyin: nǐ néng bāng wǒ yí ge máng ma
Meaning: Could you do me a favour?
Everyone needs a boost at some point during work, whether it be fielding a phone call or a helping hand while refilling the water cooler. You would break out this phrase in such situations, which sounds so sufficiently polite and in need that whoever you ask will be bound to help.
Pinyin: zài jiā bàn gōng
Meaning: Work from home
The most commonly used phrase in 2020 looks more than likely to be just as prevalent in 2021, though we are still hopeful that things will improve! Inquire if someone’s company has a WFH policy with “你们公司有没有在家办公 (nǐ men gōng sī yǒu méi yǒu zài jiā bàn gōng)?” If you’re among those who enjoy the extra time spent indoors with your pets, then you might ask of your manager “疫情过了以后还能不能在家办公？(yì qíng guò le yǐ hòu huán néng bù néng zài jiā bàn gōng?”, which means, “Can we continue working from home after the pandemic?”
Pinyin: bǎo chí lián xì
Meaning: Keep in touch
The Chinese use this phrase just as much as English-speaking circles do. A similar phrase with the same meaning is 保持联络 (bǎo chí lián luò); alternatively, a less formal choice would be “咱们下次再聊 (zán men xià cì zài liáo; Let’s chat next time).”
Pinyin: jiā bān
Meaning: (To do) overtime
This dreaded phrase is unfortunately also all too common! Used as a verb, it can be utilised in sentences such as “今晚又要加班了 (jīn wǎn yòu yāo jiā bān le; [I] have to do overtime tonight again),” or “按时把工作做完就不用加班 (àn shí bǎ gōng zuò zuò wán jiù bú yòng jiā bān; If [we] finish the work on time, there’s no need to do overtime).”
Pinyin: zhè shì wǒ de míng piàn
Meaning: This is my name card.
No matter how environmentally conscious we are becoming, Hong Kong is still very much a society that loves giving out and collecting name cards—there’s no way you can go out for a meeting and not return with a small stack. This is the phrase used when presenting such cards of your own to a business associate, respectfully given with both hands, of course!
Pinyin: huì yì de shí jiān bèi gǎi le
Meaning: The meeting time has been rescheduled.
There’s nothing worse than being the only one not aware of sudden changes in plans. Helpfully let your teammates know if a meeting has been rescheduled, and also supplement it with some useful time-related phrases while you’re at it, such as 下午 (xià wǔ; afternoon), 明天 (míng tiān; tomorrow), 后天 (hòu tiān; the day after tomorrow), and 下周 (xià zhōu; next week).
Pinyin: dǎ yìn jī huài le
Meaning: The printer is broken.
Has anyone noticed that the office printer always tends to malfunction at the exact moment you need to urgently print something? When that happens, this is the phrase you can yell out in alarm to get someone running over to investigate the issue. Alternatively, replace 打印机 with other nouns to announce the breakdown of some other workplace equipment such as 电话 (diàn huà; telephone), 电脑 (diàn nǎo; computer), 咖啡机 (kā fēi jī; coffee machine).
Pinyin: wǒ huì jìn kuài wán chéng
Meaning: I will finish [this] as soon as possible.
It’s important to remember this one because it’s probably the phrase that managers most want to hear from employees! That said, be careful not to carelessly use it too often, unless you like juggling 30 things all at once—in which case you might be better suited to a travelling circus anyway. If you’re using this phrase to reassure that something will be done, you could always choose to follow it with “别担心 (bié dān xīn; Don’t worry)” to really hit home the point that work is indeed in progress.
Pinyin: yòng diàn yóu fā gěi wǒ bā
Meaning: Just email [it] to me.
This phrase can be trotted out when you don’t wish to personally note down something being verbally conveyed, which can happen surprisingly often whether you’re in the office, at a meeting, in the pantry, or out at an event. In a bid to be more eco-conscious, we also regularly use it to get soft copies of documents emailed to us instead, for example, “用电邮（把新闻稿）发给我吧 (yòng diàn yóu [bǎ xīn wén gǎo] fā gěi wǒ bā; Just email [the press release] to me).”
Did you find some phrases or sentences that would be useful to you in your workplace? When learning a language, it’s important to place the materials within real-life applications for easy retention, and a school that uses this as a key to unlock foreign language learning is Q Language.
Q Language offers tailored classes to suit each student’s personal goals, and courses can range from intensive Mandarin Chinese group classes, small-group tailored Chinese classes, and one-on-one language tutoring, depending on what each student wishes to achieve. Business and corporate speak-focused classes are also available for the modern employee wishing to upgrade their skills. These sessions would be focused on practical usage that can be immediately useful such as integral spoken and listening components, rather than traditional written-only courses typically offered to school-age students.
Study alongside peers from multinational backgrounds in a relaxed learning environment, taught by native-speaking professionals with internationally recognised academic training qualifications. See all available Chinese courses offered at Q Language, and start brushing up on your Mandarin Chinese as a new year project now!