You don't need to be perfectly fluent in Chinese to work in a Chinese office, but it certainly helps when you are able to understand what other people are saying and be an actual part of the conversation. Here, we selected ten essential phrases to help you successfully participate in a business meeting.
Meeting New People
The first thing you will do at a business meeting is getting to know the people around you. “请问贵姓? (qǐng wèn guì xìng)” is a formal way of asking someone how to address them, and is more appropriate in a business setting than the casual “你叫什么？” (nǐ jiào shén me) - What’s your name?
The other person will usually respond by telling you their full name, or just their last name. Either way, you should address them formally with “[insert last name] 先生 (xiān shēng) - Mr. ___” or “[insert last name] 女士 (nǚ shì) - Ms. _____” unless you are told otherwise.
Here this expression being used in the real world, with a more detailed breakdown of from Yangyang, in this lesson from the Yoyo Chinese Intermediate Conversational Course:
At a meeting or the all-important Chinese business dinner, you might have to introduce the people around you to each other, and here is where “这位是... (zhè wèi shì)” comes in. Simply fill in the rest of the sentence with the name of the person you want to introduce. For example:
这位是 (zhè wèi shì) Mary. Mary, 这位是 (zhè wèi shì) John.
“This is Mary. Mary, this is John.”
This is a fairly formal way of introducing people. To make it more casual, take away the 位 (wèi) to make it “这是 (zhè shì) Mary” instead.
3. 您在哪个部门工作 (nín zài nǎ ge bù mén gōng zuò)? - Which department do you work in?
If you need to find out what the other person does, this is a good question to ask. They might tell you they work in “人事管理 (rén shì guǎn lǐ)” - human resources, or “运营管理 (yùn yíng guǎn lǐ)” - operations management.
Note that in a business setting, it’s safer to go with the polite form 您 (nín), rather than 你 (nǐ). You may want to check out this post on the importance of "face" in Chinese culture for a bit of background on this important aspect of relationships in China.
If you are pitching to potential investors, you need to introduce them to your business plan. In Chinese, “business plan” is “商业计划 (shāng yè jì huà)” a literal translation of its English equivalent.
5. 您觉得怎么样 (nín jué dé zěn me yàng)? - What do you think?
After you present your 商业计划 (shāng yè jì huà), you then have to seek their opinions. You can open the conversation up to comments or critique by asking 您觉得怎么样 (nín jué dé zěn me yàng)？ - What do you think?
6. 请您重说一遍好吗 (qǐng nín zhòng shuō yī biàn hǎo ma)? - Could you please repeat what you said?
In business meetings, you might not immediately understand what the other person just said. It’s a problem that happens to even native speakers of Chinese. There’s no need to be embarrassed over not understanding. You can politely ask the speaker to repeat him/herself by saying “请您重说一遍好吗 (qǐng nín zhòng shuō yī biàn hǎo ma)?”
7. 我明白了, 谢谢 (wǒ míng bái le xiè xiè) - I understand, thank you
Once you are able to understand, confirm that you got it by saying “我明白了, 谢谢 (wǒ míng bái le, xiè xiè).” And if you still don’t understand, you can ask them to repeat themselves again by saying “请您重说一遍好吗 (qǐng nín zhòng shuō yī biàn hǎo ma)?”
8. 请在这里签名 (qǐng zài zhè lǐ qiān míng) - Please sign here.
Woohoo! You have a business deal. Get those signatures on the contract by saying “请在这里签名 (qǐng zài zhè lǐ qiān míng).”
Keeping in Touch
The meeting is over, but you want to keep in touch for the future. After all, your relationships - 关系 (guān xi) - are the backbone of your business life in China. You can ask the other person to exchange business cards with you by saying “我们可以交换名片吗 (wǒ men kě yǐ jiāo huàn míng piàn ma)?"
10. 我们可以在微信上聊吗？(wǒ men kě yǐ zài wēi xìn shàng liáo ma) - Can we chat on Wechat?
In recent years, Wechat has become an extremely popular way of conducting business in China. Even CEOs and senior management are communicating with their teams on Wechat since it is so convenient.
Most people who live or work in China will have Wechat already, and it is a common way to exchange contact information, even in a business setting.
So there you have it, ten highly useful Chinese phrases to learn and know for any future business meeting. Do you have any questions regarding any of these? Are there anymore super useful phrases you would add?