Hi in Chinese
Although hello in Chinese is the standard form of how to say hello in Chinese, you can also say “hi” in Chinese. But, you will find that hi in Chinese is used much differently than where we would normally say hi!
I’ll try to explain it by situations so that you can see what I mean.
Hi in Chinese: in Conversation
First, you can say hi in Chinese almost like we would say, “Hey!” As in “Hey, how are you?” you could appropriately use the first version of hi in Chinese.
Notice that the Chinese character for hi in Chinese is pronounced “wèi” which sounds like our version of “way” but said with a falling fourth tone. That means that you should start just higher than your normal speaking voice and then drop your pitch as you say the word. It’s much like sighing, so think of “sigh” as you say the word “way” and you’ll have the first hi in Chinese down without a problem!
Hi in Chinese: on the Phone
Second, you’ll find that a type of hi in Chinese is used as people answer the telephone in Mainland China. Now in other Chinese-speaking countries, this might be considered rude, but in Mainland China it’s considered practical and a part of everyday life.
So, this hi in Chinese is almost like our “yes” as we are answering the telephone where someone might say, “Yes? Hello?” The literal meaning of this Chinese character, however, is “yea” much like our modern yes, but many still consider this phrase a way to say, “Hi. Hello.” as is commonly said on the phone.
In order to say this version of hi in Chinese, it’s pronounced “wĕi” which means that you’re still going to use “way,” but that your voice will do something else! (It’s a little tricky, but it can be done)! So, to pronounce this, you would start out at your normal speaking voice, lower the pitch for a period of time, and THEN raise the pitch at the end.
I know, it’s crazy—a little like acrobatics for the voice! (Think of when you say, out of frustration “oh,” or when you might say “no” to someone to demonstrate that it’s not like that at all! This is the type of sound you’re looking for). For more on Chinese tones, see How to Learn the Chinese Language.
Now, you can see two different ways to say hi in Chinese—one almost like “hey” and the other for when answering the phone. See, the Chinese language can be quite an adventure just in saying hi in Chinese!