Meeting the family can be pretty awkward.
Whether you’re being introduced as the new love interest or even just as a classmate, there’s a lot of pressure to make a good first impression with the parents.
Throw in a language barrier, and the pressure doubles.
In these situations, someone always ends up playing translator. It’s either you when you’re introducing a Chinese friend to your family or your Chinese friend who’s introducing you to their family.
Whichever way it goes, conversations tend to be twice as long, because the same information has to be repeated in two languages.
If you’re a beginning Chinese student, learning icebreakers or easy conversations may be a bit too challenging right now. But at the very least, you should learn the basics of family introductions.
The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Family Introductions in Chinese
Phrases You’ll Need for a Family Introduction in Chinese
Before we get down to key terms and dialogue, let’s go over some of the formulas you’ll need for a family introduction in Chinese.
这是我(的)_____。 (zhè shì wǒ [de] _____.) — This is my _____.
This is the sentence structure you’ll be using when introducing your family to a Chinese friend. Notice that 的 (de) is in parentheses. It can be taken out without losing the meaning of the sentence, so it’s up to you whether you’d like to include it or not.
这是我的母亲。 (zhè shì wǒ de mǔqīn.) — This is my mother.
他/她是我(的)_____。 (tā shì wǒ [de] _____.) — He/She is my _____.
Instead of saying, “This is my _____,” you could also use this sentence.
他是我弟弟。 (tā shì wǒ dìdì.) — He is my younger brother.
我叫_____。 (wǒ jiào _____.) — My name is _____.
This one is straightforward, used for meeting your friend’s family.
我叫艾米莉。 (wǒ jiào ài mǐ lì.) — My name is Emily.
我是他/她(的)_____。 (wǒ shì tā/tā [de] _____.) — I am his/her _____.
This is a sentence structure you can use when a Chinese family member asks how you and your friend know each other or what relationship you two have.
我是她的室友。 (wǒ shì tā de shìyǒu.) — I am her roommate.
我们在_____认识。 (wǒ men zài _____ rèn shí.) — We met at _____.
Here’s another example sentence you’d use with your friend’s family when asked where or how you met.
我们在一家咖啡店认识。 (wǒ men zài yī jiā kā fēi diàn rèn shí.) — We met at a coffee shop.
Seems basic enough, right? Okay, moving onto vocabulary and sample dialogues!
Introducing Your Family to a Friend
Have you recently made a new Chinese friend you want to introduce to your folks? Whether your friend knows very little English or is proficient, you still may need to do some translating.
By now, you may know the basic terms for immediate family members, and perhaps some others to describe specific relatives. If you’d rather use more general terms, or terms to describe more members of your family, refer to this list:
家人 (jiā rén) — family
父母 (fù mǔ) — lit. father and mother; parents
兄弟姐妹 (xiōng dì jiě mèi) — lit. brothers and sisters; siblings
妻子 (qī zi) — wife
丈夫 (zhàng fū) — husband
孩子 (hái zi)) — child/children
祖父母 (zǔ fù mǔ) — grandparents
亲戚(们) (qīn qī [men]) — relative(s)
You may also use Chinese terms of endearment when talking about your family with your Chinese friend, if you want your introduction to be a little less formal.
Unless you’re bringing your friend to a family reunion, you probably won’t need to use most of these terms.
However, it doesn’t hurt to study the complex Chinese family tree. Even if you have no plans to introduce your Chinese friend to your entire family, they may want to introduce you to theirs.
An Example Family Introduction to a Chinese Friend
Here’s a sample dialogue so you can see how this situation could potentially flow. Speaker A is the foreigner introducing their friend, Speaker B, to their family. Speakers C and D are Speaker A’s mom and dad, respectively.
A: 王芳, 这是我的家人。 (wáng fāng, zhè shì wǒ de jiā rén.) — Wang Fang, this is my family.
B: 大家好！ (dà jiā hǎo!) — Hello, everyone!
A: 这是我爸爸Richard和我妈妈Joan。 (zhè shì wǒ bà ba Richard hé wǒ mā mā Joan.) — This is my father, Richard, and my mother, Joan.
C & D: Welcome, Wang Fang!
Pretty easy, don’t you think?
Introducing Yourself to a Friend’s Family
The other situation in which you’ll need Chinese for family introductions is when you, the foreigner, are meeting your Chinese friend’s family. Surely, your friend would be the one introducing you to the family, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could hold your own instead of rely on your pal to do all the talking on your behalf?
It’s worth noting that you may not just be meeting the parents or the immediate family. The Chinese typically raise their kids to be interdependent, or part of an extended family, so you’ll probably be meeting the grandparents, as well.
Some traditional families, especially ones in rural China, have up to five generations living in one household. As if meeting the parents wasn’t nerve wracking enough!
Vocabulary to Describe Your Relationship
Although it’s the safest way to describe your relationship to the parents, “friend” is a pretty broad term to use. If you want to be more specific, here’s a list of vocabulary that you might find useful:
朋友 (péng yǒu) — friend
闺蜜 (guī mì) — best female friend
兄弟 (xiōng dì) — best male friend
女朋友 (nǚ péng yǒu) — girlfriend
男朋友 (nán péng yǒu) — boyfriend
未婚妻 (wèi hūn qī) — fiancée
未婚夫 (wèi hūn fū) — fiancé
同学 (tóng xué) — classmate
同事 (tóng shì) — colleague/co-worker
老板 (lǎo bǎn) — boss
室友 (shì yǒu) — housemate/roommate
导师 (dǎo shī) — tutor
学生 (xué shēng) — student
An Example Introduction to a Chinese Friend’s Family
In this situation, you’ll probably need to be able to speak more Chinese than if you introduced your Chinese friend to your family.
Here’s another sample dialogue, where Speaker A is a Chinese woman introducing her American boyfriend, Speaker B, to her family. Speaker C is the father, and Speaker D is the mother.
A: 爸爸妈妈, 这是我的男朋友迈克。迈克, 这是我父母。 (bà ba mā mā, zhè shì wǒ de nán péng yǒu mài kè. mài kè, zhè shì wǒ de fù mǔ.) — Father, mother, this is my boyfriend Mike. Mike, these are my parents.
C&D: 你好迈克！ (nǐ hǎo mài kè!) — Hello, Mike!
B: 你们好！很高兴认识你。 (nǐ men hǎo! hěn gāo xìng rèn shì nǐ.) — Hello! Nice to meet you.
C: 你们在那里认识? (nǐ men zài nà lǐ rèn shí?) — Where did you two meet?
B: 我们在大学图书馆认识。她也是我的中文导师。 (wǒ men zài dà xué tú shū guǎn rèn shí. tā yě shì wǒ de zhōng wén dǎo shī.) — We met at the university library. She’s also my Chinese tutor.
D: 好棒啊！坐来吧。 (hǎo bàng a! zuò lái ba) — Wonderful! Come, have a seat.
B: 谢谢！ (xiè xiè!) — Thank you!
Once you’ve got the introductory exchange down, I recommend reading up on sentence structures concerning personal information and interests. After all, Chinese do love small talk! Be prepared to talk about your heritage, family background, career and hobbies.
Are you ready to make a good impression when you meet the family? With these Chinese family introductions in your back pocket, there’s no reason to be nervous!