A few years ago, when I first began to learn Chinese with my kids, I took notes of common phrases I use as well as things Chinese parents say on a day-to-day basis. Many of you have asked for a list of these, so I have typed up some of the phrases here for you.
However, an even better option is that you can now get an affordable phrasebook, Everyday Mandarin for Parents, with 1500+ words and phrases! Author and bilingual parent Ann Hamilton has also published Everyday Cantonese for Parents!
Although I’m pretty conversational in Mandarin now, I bought the book because I still have gaps in my vocabulary. In English, I can rephrase sentences and think of several synonyms. But in Chinese, I sometimes only know one way to express an idea.
Therefore, Everyday Mandarin for Parents gives me more phrases to use when speaking Chinese to my kids. If only this existed a few years ago when I first started to learn!
Hamilton’s book is an incredible resource, and I can’t recommend it enough. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing phrasebook and continue scrolling for some of my go-to Mandarin phrases to learn as a parent.
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Available languages for common Chinese parenting phrases
Ann Hamilton currently has the following Chinese parenting phrasebooks:
- Everyday Mandarin for Parents: Simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and English
- Everyday Cantonese for Parents: Traditional Chinese, Jyutping, and English
- Everyday Cantonese for Parents: Traditional Chinese, Yale, and English
Each book is available in paperback as well as on Kindle. While I don’t have the Cantonese version, I see great reviews on Amazon, and it appears very similar to the Mandarin version I use.
For the bulk of this review, I will focus on the Mandarin version, but I just wanted to share the good news with Cantonese-speaking friends! All versions are currently available in the USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. The Mandarin version is also available in Australia.
Audio narration for common Chinese parenting vocabulary
For Mandarin speakers, you can conveniently use the Youdao Dictionary Reading Pen with this book. One of the biggest drawbacks of learning with a book is not hearing the pronunciation -and this reading pen solves that issue.
If you create an account on author Ann Hamilton’s website, you can listen to the Mandarin phrases and Cantonese audio for free! All of the narrations are read by native Chinese speakers, and you can hear them even before buying the books.
What I love about Everyday Mandarin for Parents
Everyday Mandarin for Parents starts with an overview of pronouns, possessive nouns, and common measure words (eg, classifiers). Keep in mind, Hanyu Pinyin and the Chinese tones aren’t explained in the Mandarin version. If you need a primer, check out this free audio chart by Yabla.
Read this: When Should My Child Learn Hanyu Pinyin?
Anyway, I really love how the book is organized into sections so I can easily find the most relevant words. Topics covered are as follows:
- Daily routine
- Health and personal care
- Daily activities
- Early learning and play
- Social skills and emotions
The layout is clean and uncluttered, with plenty of white space in the margins to take notes. And while the Chinese characters could be a bit larger, it’s still easy for me to read.
The book is also lightweight and portable. If you like to study on the go, it should fit in a small backpack or handbag.
What Chinese phrases should parents learn first?
Unfortunately, most Chinese books for adult learners are geared for business travelers. However, the most relevant Chinese phrases should help parents communicate with their children. Top priority topics include basic needs, food, safety, play, hygiene, and daily routine.
A peek inside Everyday Mandarin for Parents
Here is a preview of the Everyday Mandarin for Parents book. For each page, there are soft colors and simple icons that highlight each category. However, the Cantonese version is currently only black-and-white.
Once again, I have to reiterate how much I love the organized format!
Tips for learning Chinese phrases as an adult
Kids’ brains are like sponges – they soak up languages fast!
But as adults, we can a little longer to learn new language rules outside of English. Not to mention also finding time to sit down and concentrate. As a busy parent, I get it!
Set time aside in your schedule to practice
If learning Chinese with your children is important for you, dedicate time in your schedule for language practice. This can mean 5 minutes in the morning before breakfast, 15 minutes during your work commute, or half an hour a weekend after your child goes to bed.
Find a time that works for you and your schedule and stick to it. I repeat, stick to it!
Remember, every step counts and gradually builds momentum. Like running a marathon, learning how to speak Chinese requires practice, persistence, and endurance.
Building a solid language foundation also means finding a pace that works best for you and your family. Start with just a few common Chinese words or phrases.
Initially, saying those first Chinese words might feel awkward. Over time, those first baby steps will become smoother and stronger strides!
Use other Chinese resources
When you are extra busy or tired, use audio and video to learn when you can’t sit down to read.
You can learn more about how I learned to speak, read, and write Chinese with my children here.
Common Chinese parenting phrases
A few years ago, I jotted down some everyday Mandarin phrases that I found myself using often. They don’t overlap with the book, so I hope these extra Chinese phrases I’ve shared below can help you in your learning!
I have them listed in English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese (if different), and Hanyu Pinyin.
Common Chinese phrases about directions
- Come here!
- Over there?
- Zài nà biān?
- Do you want to go up?
- Nǐ xiǎng shàngqù ma?
- Or downstairs?
- Háishì lóu xià?
- I can’t find you!
- Wǒ zhǎo bù dào nǐ!
- I found you!
- Wǒ zhǎodào nǐ!
- Please sit.
- Qǐng zuò.
- Please stand
- Qǐng zhàn qǐlái.
Common Chinese parenting phrases about affection
- Mommy and Daddy love you!
- Māmā bàba ài nǐ!
- Do you need a hug?
- Nǐ yào bàobào ma?
- Do you need me to carry you?
- Nǐ xūyào wǒ bèizhe nǐ ma?
- Can I give you a kiss?
- Wǒ néng qīn yī qīn nǐ ma?
- I like being with you.
- Wǒ xǐhuān hé nǐ zài yīqǐ.
For more important sayings, please read 30 Positive Affirmations I Tell My Kids Everyday (English / Chinese Printable)
Common Chinese phrases about daily routine
- Good morning!
- Zǎoshang hǎo!
- Did you sleep well last night?
- Zuó wǎn shuì dé hǎo ma?
- Are you tired?
- Nǐ lèile ma?
- Do you want to sleep?
- Nǐ xiǎng shuìjiào ma?
- Rest well!
- Hǎo hǎo xiū xi!
- Sleep well!
- Shuì dé hǎo!
- What time is it now?
- Xiànzài jǐ diǎnle?
- Can you hurry up?
- Nǐ néng kuài diǎn ma?
- Please slow down.
- Qǐng màn yīdiǎn.
- I’ll wait for you.
- Wǒ huì děng nǐ de.
- Let’s go.
- Wǒmen zǒu ba.
Common Chinese parenting phrases about food
- Are you thirsty?
- Nǐ kě ma?
- Are you hungry?
- Nǐ èle ma?
- I’m so hungry!
- Wǒ tài èle!
- What do you want for breakfast?
- Nǐ zǎocān yào chī shénme?
- What’s for dinner?
- Wǎncān chī shénme?
- What do you want to eat for lunch?
- Nǐ wǔcān xiǎng chī shénme?
- I want to eat _______.
- 我想吃 _______。
- Wǒ xiǎng chī _______.
- Do you want mommy and daddy to feed you?
- Nǐ yào māmā hé bàba wèi nǐ ma?
- Does it taste good?
- Hào chī ma?
- This is delicious.
- Zhège hào chī.
- This smells / tastes bad.
- Zhè wèidào bù hǎo.
- I’m full!
- Wǒ bǎole!
Common Chinese phrases about hygiene
- Do you have to pee?
- Nǐ yào niào niào ma?
- Do you need to poop?
- Nǐ xūyào dàbiàn ma?
- Wash hands!
- Wipe it clean!
- Cā gānjìng!
- Let’s brush our teeth together!
- Ràng wǒmen yīqǐ shuāyá!
- That’s too dirty.
- Nà tài zāngle。
- It’s all clean now!
- Xiànzài dōu gānjìngle!
Common Chinese parenting phrases about safety
- Be careful! (Watch out!)
- That’s dangerous.
- Zhè hěn wéixiǎn.
- Walk slowly, don’t run.
- 慢慢走, 不要跑。
- Màn man zǒu, bùyào pǎo.
- This place is safe.
- Zhège dìfāng hěn ānquán.
- Are you hurt?
- Nǐ shòushāngle ma?
- That’s not okay.
Common Chinese phrases about playing
- What do you want to play?
- Nǐ xiǎng wán shénme?
- Do you want this toy?
- Nǐ yào zhège wánjù ma?
- Please give me the toy.
- Qǐng gěi wǒ wánjù.
- This is fun!
- Zhège hěn yǒuqù!
Are you learning Chinese with your kids, too?
Where are you on your journey, and what inspires you to learn Chinese? How is it going so far? Please share in the comments! I’d love to hear about your story!
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