Mandarin Chinese is a language that relies on intonations to distinguish between homophones. That is, tones are used to discern one word from another that would otherwise be pronounced identically. If the tone is changed, the meaning of the word is changed.

The four tones are as follows:

 

1st tone: flat (-)

For example, Yī means “one”.

 

2nd tone: rising ( / )

Yí means “aunt”.

 

3rd tone: falling then rising ( \/ )

Yǐ means “chair”.

 

4th tone: falling ( \ )

Yì means “100 million”.

 

As you can see, it’s important to watch what you say and how you say it. For example, “jīe jī” means “pick somone up at the airport”, but “jíe jī” means “highjack the airplane”. So, seriously, be careful what you say into your cellphone while waiting in the airport lounge. (Furthermore, “jǐe jí” means “must go to the toilet”.)

Other things to listen for — “wǎng bā” means “internet bar” but “wáng bā” means “bastard”. “Wǒ gǎn mào” means “I have a cold” but “wǒ gàn māo” means “I have sex with cats”.

I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to. Be careful out there.

Air China is now providing non-stop flights between North America and Mainland China.

Previously, there were only three methods of direct travel to China: taking a slow boat; being shanghaied; and digging a hole straight through the Earth.

I love kung fu movies!

Tai chi movies, not so much. It’s the pacing or something, I don’t know.

Just not my cup of tea.