15 September 2013

Vocabulary: countries, nationalities and languages

The name of countries in Chinese has no real meaning (except China, that means "center"), normally it is a phonetic translation from original to Chinese. Therefore it hasn't any sense to think about the meaning of every character, the pronunciation is the key



There is only one character  (guó) that means country, it is combined with names of countries that only have one character. It is always placed at the end of the word. 

Zhōngguó
China

This is a small collection of countries names.


guó
Germany
俄罗斯
Éluósī
Russia
guó
France
西班牙
Xībānyá
Spain
意大利
Yìdàlì
Italy
加拿大
Jiānádà
Canada
Yīngguó
United Kingdom
Měiguó
USA
Tàiguó
Thailand
墨西哥
Mòxīgē
Mexico
Hánguó
South Korea
日本
Rìběn
Japan




The nationality word is pretty easy to combine: take the country characters and add the person character  (rén) at the end. If you want to say Chinese person you must combine China + person.

国家 +
Country + person



中国
Zhōngguórén
Chinene person


德国
Déguórén
German
俄罗斯
Éluósīrén
Russian
法国
Fǎguórén
French
西班牙
Xībānyárén
Spanish
意大利
Yìdàlìrén
Italian
加拿大
Jiānádàrén
Canadian
英国
Yīngguórén
British
美国
Měiguórén
American
泰国
Tàiguórén
Thai
墨西哥
Mòxīgērén
Mexican
韩国
Hánguórén
South Korean
日本
Rìběnrén
Japanese




The name of the languages is a little bit more complicated. There are two characters to combine with the country name to express the it, because Chinese language differentiates between spoken and written language.
  • (yǔ) spoken language
  • (wén) written language


Like nationalities, the character is added at the end of the country name, but there is a rule: if the country name has character, it is replaced by the language character.

Yīngguó
United Kingdom
Yīng
English
Yīngwén
English


Be careful because there are some exceptions like Chinese language.

Zhōngguó
China
Hàn
Chinese (spoken)
Zhōngwén
Chinese (written)


What happens if there isn't character in the country name? It can happen two things. Some countries names keep the first character and combine it with language characters.


俄罗斯
Éluósī
Russia

É
Russian

Éwén
Russian

日本
Rìběn
Japan
日语
Japanese
日文
wén
Japanese



Other countries names only need to add the language characters.


西班牙
Xībānyá
Spain
西班牙语
Xībānyá
Spanish
西班牙文
Xībānyáwén
Spanish


意大利
Yìdàlì
Italy
意大利语
Yìdàlì
Italian
意大利文
Yìdàlìwén
Italan