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How do we ask someone to "translate" a character or some pinyin into the other one? The expressions I'm referring to are:

  1. What's the pinyin for this/that (character)/... ?
  2. What's the character for this/that (pinyin)/... ?

It would be useful to know these two expressions since they are more or less fixed like "how are you?" (or similar ones) but are not that popular, so that's why I'm asking for such a "translation" question.

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@Alenannofew visit, few question, and few discussion... I would say,"没人气啊!" –  Huang Dec 21 '11 at 12:30
@Huang What does that mean? :D –  Alenanno Dec 21 '11 at 13:24
I don't know how to translate it into English appropriately. “人气” is Something like "Popularity". It's a word to describe the degree that how something(or a person, a place) is welcomed or loved by others. You are learning Japanese, and there is also a 人気. Similar, 気 is the simplified form in Japanese while 气 in Chinese. –  Huang Dec 21 '11 at 13:53
@Alenanno, you might want to work on your acceptance rate. It seems this question and this one seem to have pretty good answers. Having a higher acceptance rate helps encourage people to answer questions, which is especially important during the early stages of a site. –  brc Dec 21 '11 at 17:51
@brc寇百强 I was thinking about that today, I'm going to check them. :) –  Alenanno Dec 21 '11 at 18:28
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

What's the pinyin for this/that character? 这个/那个字的拼音是什么?

What's the character for this/that pinyin? 这个/那个拼音代表的(or 对应的)汉字是什么?

I would use the words “代表(dài biăo)的” or “对应(duì yìng)的" for the second translation, because in general, you can determine the PinYin for a specific character (though some characters have two or more pronunciations). However, you can't always determine the character for a specific PinYin.

代表: to represent, to delegate, to stand for

对应: to correspond to

Edit: Answers to Alenanno. I would like to put them here because of the length

Sorry, part in () is an alternative. I should have put a "or" there (already edited).

When you ask the first question, I and I think other Chinese won't spell its PinYin (though, in English, it's common to spell a word), but show you simple or common characters with the same sound.

For example, you meet a word "畏葸不前", and you would guess the character “葸" sounds "sī" becaude it's similar with "思" (sī); however, you are not sure, so you ask me (it's a good habit to ask someone or consult the dictionary, don't ever guess the sounds),

这个字怎么读?(really, this is more common) and I answer,

它读作(or simply 读) “喜欢的喜"(or simply, 它读‘喜'), to show you the sound.

If you are completly strange to Chinese and you can't get its PinYin from my pronunciation, you would continue the question,

它的拼音是什么? and I answer,

Xi(I would repeat the sound, at a very low speech rate so you can catch the sounds of X and I), 3rd tone.

For your second question, I'll take another example. Suppose that you just heard this sentence on the TV:

tā măi le liăng băi kè dāng guī

You understood [tā măi le liăng băi kè] stood for "他买了200克" (he bought 200 grams...) and you are wondering what is "dāng guī", so you try to repeat that sentence, "tā măi le liăng băi kè dāng guī?",and ask me,

Huang, dāng guī是什么?(in this context, I may understand your question as "what is dāng guī?", instead of "what are the characters for dāng guī )

I answer, "当归是一种中药材"(dāng guī is a kind of Chinese herbal medicine).

You want to know the corresponding characters, so you continue the question,

对应的汉字是什么?(or simply, 怎么写?).

I may answer, dāng是当然的当,(dāng stands for 当 as in the word 当然), guī是归还的归.

However, if your Chinese level is very low, and you even don't know the words 当然 and 归还, you would continue to say,

怎么写呢?(how to write?), or 可以写给我看吗? (Could you please write them down for me?)

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Thanks everybody. Huang, I have 2 questions: are the parts between ( ) optional? And when I ask such questions, will they answer me by spelling the pinyin, for example? –  Alenanno Dec 23 '11 at 10:51
@Alenanno I edited my answer to answer your doubts. I found that my answers were usually too long. Does it matter? Or perhaps I should improve my English. Of course,you can edit it. –  Huang Dec 23 '11 at 12:20
Brilliant! +1 and accepted. I have a small request: instead of writing "or", can you write the two sentences/questions completely? It would be clearer. –  Alenanno Dec 23 '11 at 12:28
@Alenanno Ok, I will improve my answers in the future as you suggest. –  Huang Dec 23 '11 at 12:34
谢谢你! Your answer was very good. –  Alenanno Dec 23 '11 at 12:36
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Although you didn't ask for it, I think this sentence is also useful:

How do I pronounce this character? 这个字怎么念? (Zhège zì zěnme niàn)

How do I read this word? 这个字怎么读? (Zhège zì zěnme dú)

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I think Huang's answers are both great, but my personal favorites would be

How do I write the pinyin for this/that character? 这个/那个字的拼音怎么写?

How do I write the character for this/that pinyin?这个/那个拼音用汉字怎么写?

Where 怎么写 means "how do you write".

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