Beginners' Chinese
Beginners' Chinese

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Beginners' Chinese

2.2 Professional titles and professions

Read the culture note and the reflection note that follows. Then reflect about your own culture.

Culture: professional titles

China is very much a hierarchical society, where titles are important. Chinese people like to address each other by attaching professional titles or official positions, such as 老师 lăoshī (teacher) or 医生 yīshēng (doctor), to a family name. So you might hear someone being addressed as 李老师 Lĭ lăoshī (Teacher Li) or 王医生 Wáng yīshēng (Doctor Wang), for example.

This practice is also common in Chinese business circles, where job titles such as 经理 jīnglǐ (manager), 主任 zhǔrèn (director) and 总裁 zǒng cái (CEO) are used as forms of address, as well as to refer to someone in the third person. So, for example, a manager whose surname was Wang would be referred to as 王经理 Wáng jīnglĭ (Manager Wang). For CEOs, the form is shortened to zǒng , so a CEO with the surname Li would be referred to and addressed as 李总 Lĭ zǒng .

Reflection point ( 想一想 Xiǎng yi xiǎng )

In what contexts would you address people by their professional titles in your own culture? ‘Minister, could you clarify…’; ‘Madam Chairman, it is clear that…’; ‘Doctor, could you tell me…’ Can you think of any other titles that you would use in everyday life? Does the use of professional titles indicate respect for some professions above others, or is it just a matter of convention? Do you think that forms of address are becoming less formal?

Activity 8 Describing one’s profession and age

Practise saying out aloud someone’s age and profession using the third person pronoun tā (she) or tā (he). Look at the pictures below and describe the profession and age of each person. Let us take Picture 1 as an example:

他是工人。他今年四十九岁。 Tā shì gōngrén. Tā jīnnián sìshíjiŭ suì. (He is a worker. He is 49 years old this year.)

Say it aloud yourself and then play the audio clip to hear a sample answer.

Here are the professions featured in the pictures:

工人 gōngrén worker
护士 hùsh nurse
服务员 fúwùyuán waiter
科学家 kēxuéjiā scientist


Listen to the audio clip to compare yours with the sample descriptions.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Professions
Skip transcript: Professions

Transcript: Professions

1 他 是 工人。 他 今 年 四 十 九 岁。

Tā shì gōngrén. Tā jīnnián sìshíjiǔ suì.

2 她是护士。她今年三十一岁。

Tā shì hùshì. Tā jīn nián sānshíyī suì .

3 他是服务员。 他今年二十七岁。

Tā shì fúwùyuán. Tā jīn nián èrshíqī suì.

4 她是科学家。她今年五十岁。

Tā shì kēxuéjiā. Tā jīn nián wǔshí suì.

End transcript: Professions
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus