10 Must-Know Chinese Phrases for Travelers Exploring China

China is a country with a rich history and a vibrant culture. The Chinese language, with its unique characters and tonal pronunciation, is one of the oldest and most widely spoken languages in the world. Learning Chinese phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience in China, as it allows you to communicate with locals, understand the culture, and navigate through various situations.

Chinese culture is deeply rooted in Confucianism, which emphasizes respect for elders, family values, and harmony within society. Understanding the basics of Chinese culture can help travelers navigate social interactions and avoid cultural misunderstandings. Learning Chinese phrases not only shows respect for the local culture but also opens doors to meaningful connections with the people you meet during your travels.

Essential Chinese Phrases for Travelers

1. Greetings:
– Ni hao (nee how) – Hello
– Zai jian (zai jee-ehn) – Goodbye
– Xie xie (sheh sheh) – Thank you
– Bu yong xie (boo yong sheh) – You’re welcome

2. Ordering Food and Drinks:
– Qing gei wo yi ge… (ching gay woh ee guh…) – Please give me one…
– Wo yao yi ge… (woh yow ee guh…) – I want one…
– Zhe ge duo shao qian? (juh guh dwuh shaow chyen?) – How much is this?
– Wo bu chi rou (woh boo chir roh) – I don’t eat meat

3. Asking for Directions:
– Qing wen, zhe li you…ma? (ching wun, juh lee yo…ma?) – Excuse me, does this place have…?
– Zai na li? (zai nah lee?) – Where is it?
– Wo zai yi hao lu (woh zai ee how loo) – I am on Road Number One
– Zuo (zwoh) – Left
– You (yo) – Right

4. Shopping and Bargaining:
– Duo shao qian? (dwuh shaow chyen?) – How much does it cost?
– Pian yi yi dian (pyen ee ee dyen) – Can you give me a discount?
– Tai gui le (tie gway luh) – It’s too expensive
– Wo yao mai zhe ge (woh yow my juh guh) – I want to buy this

5. Using Public Transportation:
– Qing wen, zhe li you gong jiao che ma? (ching wun, juh lee yo gong jee-ow chuh ma?) – Excuse me, is there a bus here?
– Wo yao qu… (woh yow choo…) – I want to go to…
– Zhan (jahn) – Station
– Che zhan (chuh jahn) – Train station
– Fei ji chang (fay jee chahng) – Airport

6. Emergency Phrases:
– Bang zhu! (bahng joo!) – Help!
– Ji suan! (jee swahn!) – Police!
– Yi sheng! (ee shung!) – Doctor!
– Wo shi yi ge li hai! (woh shih ee guh lee hi!) – I am in danger!

Greetings and Basic Conversation in Chinese

Greetings are an important part of Chinese culture, and knowing how to say hello and goodbye can go a long way in establishing a positive connection with locals. The most common greeting in Chinese is “Ni hao,” which means “hello.” It is pronounced as “nee how.” To say goodbye, you can use the phrase “Zai jian,” which is pronounced as “zai jee-ehn.”

In addition to greetings, it is also useful to know how to introduce yourself in Chinese. You can say “Wo jiao…” followed by your name. For example, “Wo jiao Emily” means “My name is Emily.” Pronunciation tip: “Wo” is pronounced as “woh,” and “jiao” is pronounced as “jyow.”

Basic conversation phrases can help you navigate through various situations during your travels. Here are a few examples:

– Ni hao ma? (nee how ma?) – How are you?
– Hen gaoxing renshi ni (hen gow-shing ren-shir nee) – Nice to meet you
– Wo bu dong (woh boo dong) – I don’t understand
– Qing shuo man yi dian (ching shwoh mahn ee dyen) – Please speak slowly

Ordering Food and Drinks in Chinese

China is known for its diverse and delicious cuisine, and trying local dishes is a must for any traveler. Knowing how to order food and drinks in Chinese can enhance your dining experience and help you explore the local culinary scene.

When ordering food and drinks, it is common to use the phrase “Qing gei wo yi ge…” which means “Please give me one…” For example, if you want to order a bowl of noodles, you can say “Qing gei wo yi ge mian” (Please give me one bowl of noodles). Pronunciation tip: “Qing” is pronounced as “ching,” and “gei” is pronounced as “gay.”

If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, it is helpful to know how to communicate them in Chinese. For example, if you don’t eat meat, you can say “Wo bu chi rou” which means “I don’t eat meat.” Pronunciation tip: “Wo” is pronounced as “woh,” “bu” is pronounced as “boo,” and “chi” is pronounced as “chir.”

Asking for Directions in Chinese

Navigating through a new city can be challenging, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Knowing how to ask for directions in Chinese can help you find your way around and explore the city with ease.

To ask for directions, you can use the phrase “Qing wen, zhe li you…ma?” which means “Excuse me, does this place have…?” For example, if you are looking for a pharmacy, you can say “Qing wen, zhe li you yao dian ma?” (Excuse me, does this place have a pharmacy?) Pronunciation tip: “Qing” is pronounced as “ching,” “wen” is pronounced as “wun,” and “ma” is pronounced as “ma.”

When someone gives you directions, it is important to understand their response. Common landmarks and transportation phrases can help you navigate through the city. For example, to ask where something is, you can say “Zai na li?” which means “Where is it?” Pronunciation tip: “Zai” is pronounced as “zai,” and “na li” is pronounced as “nah lee.”

Shopping and Bargaining in Chinese Markets

abcdhe 12

China is known for its bustling markets and vibrant street vendors. Shopping in China can be a fun and exciting experience, but it is important to know how to bargain and negotiate prices.

When shopping in Chinese markets, it is common to ask for the price of an item by saying “Duo shao qian?” which means “How much does it cost?” Pronunciation tip: “Duo shao” is pronounced as “dwuh shaow,” and “qian” is pronounced as “chyen.”

If you think the price is too high, you can try to negotiate by saying “Pian yi yi dian” which means “Can you give me a discount?” Pronunciation tip: “Pian yi” is pronounced as “pyen ee,” and “yi dian” is pronounced as “ee dyen.”

When you find something you want to buy, you can say “Wo yao mai zhe ge” which means “I want to buy this.” Pronunciation tip: “Wo” is pronounced as “woh,” “yao” is pronounced as “yow,” and “mai” is pronounced as “my.”

Using Public Transportation in China

China has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trains, and subways. Navigating through public transportation can be intimidating, especially if you don’t speak the local language. However, knowing a few common transportation phrases can help you get around with ease.

To ask if there is a bus or train at a certain location, you can say “Qing wen, zhe li you gong jiao che ma?” which means “Excuse me, is there a bus here?” Pronunciation tip: “Gong jiao che” is pronounced as “gong jee-ow chuh.”

When telling someone where you want to go, you can say “Wo yao qu…” followed by the destination. For example, if you want to go to the train station, you can say “Wo yao qu che zhan.” Pronunciation tip: “Qu” is pronounced as “choo,” and “che zhan” is pronounced as “chuh jahn.”

Common transportation phrases and vocabulary include:

– Zhan (jahn) – Station
– Che zhan (chuh jahn) – Train station
– Fei ji chang (fay jee chahng) – Airport
– Dian che (dyen chuh) – Subway
– Zuo (zwoh) – Left
– You (yo) – Right

Emergency Phrases in Chinese

While no one wants to encounter an emergency while traveling, it is important to be prepared and know how to ask for help in case of an emergency. Learning a few emergency phrases in Chinese can be a lifesaver.

If you need immediate help, you can shout “Bang zhu!” which means “Help!” Pronunciation tip: “Bang zhu” is pronounced as “bahng joo.”

In case of a serious emergency, you can shout “Ji suan!” which means “Police!” Pronunciation tip: “Ji suan” is pronounced as “jee swahn.”

If you need medical assistance, you can shout “Yi sheng!” which means “Doctor!” Pronunciation tip: “Yi sheng” is pronounced as “ee shung.”

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you can say “Wo shi yi ge li hai!” which means “I am in danger!” Pronunciation tip: “Wo shi” is pronounced as “woh shih,” and “yi ge li hai” is pronounced as “ee guh lee hi.”

Cultural Etiquette for Travelers in China

Respecting the local culture and customs is essential when traveling to any country, and China is no exception. Understanding and following cultural etiquette can help you navigate social interactions and avoid cultural misunderstandings.

Here are some tips for respecting Chinese culture and customs:

1. Greetings: When meeting someone for the first time, it is common to shake hands. However, it is important to note that physical contact may not be as common in China as it is in Western countries. It is also polite to address someone by their title and last name, followed by “xian sheng” for men or “shi fu” for women.

2. Dining Etiquette: When dining in China, it is customary to wait for the host to start eating before you begin. It is also polite to try a little bit of everything and finish your plate as a sign of appreciation. When using chopsticks, it is important to avoid sticking them upright in a bowl of rice, as this is considered bad luck.

3. Gift Giving: Gift giving is an important part of Chinese culture, especially during holidays and special occasions. When giving a gift, it is customary to present it with both hands as a sign of respect. It is also common for the recipient to refuse the gift at first as a form of politeness, so it is important to insist on them accepting it.

4. Personal Space: Personal space may be different in China compared to Western countries. It is common for people to stand closer together during conversations and for strangers to bump into each other in crowded places. It is important to be aware of these cultural differences and respect personal boundaries.

Resources for Learning Chinese Phrases and Language Tips for Travelers

Learning Chinese phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience in China. There are many resources available online and through mobile apps that can help you learn basic Chinese phrases and improve your language skills.

Some popular online resources for learning Chinese phrases include:

– Duolingo: Duolingo offers free language courses for beginners, including Chinese.
– FluentU: FluentU provides immersive language learning experiences through videos and interactive exercises.
– HelloChinese: HelloChinese is a mobile app that offers lessons and quizzes for learning Chinese.
– Memrise: Memrise offers flashcards and interactive exercises for learning Chinese vocabulary and phrases.

In addition to online resources, there are also language tips that can help travelers improve their Chinese skills:

1. Practice Speaking: The best way to improve your Chinese speaking skills is to practice speaking as much as possible. Try to have conversations with locals, even if it’s just a few phrases. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as it is a natural part of the learning process.

2. Listen to Native Speakers: Listening to native speakers can help you improve your pronunciation and comprehension skills. You can watch Chinese movies or TV shows with subtitles, listen to Chinese music, or find language exchange partners to practice speaking with.

3. Immerse Yourself in the Language: Immerse yourself in the Chinese language and culture by surrounding yourself with Chinese media, such as books, movies, and music. This can help you become more familiar with the language and improve your overall language skills.
Learning Chinese phrases is essential for travelers visiting China. It not only allows you to communicate with locals but also shows respect for the local culture and customs. By learning basic greetings, ordering food, asking for directions, shopping, and emergency phrases, travelers can navigate through various situations with ease.

In addition to learning phrases, understanding Chinese culture and customs is important for travelers in China. Respecting cultural etiquette and following local customs can help establish positive connections with locals and avoid cultural misunderstandings.

There are many resources available online and through mobile apps that can help travelers learn Chinese phrases and improve their language skills. By practicing speaking, listening to native speakers, and immersing themselves in the language, travelers can enhance their Chinese skills and feel more confident communicating with locals during their trip. Some popular language learning apps include Duolingo, HelloChinese, and Memrise, which offer interactive lessons and quizzes to help users learn vocabulary and grammar. Additionally, there are apps like HelloTalk and Tandem that connect language learners with native speakers for language exchange and conversation practice. These platforms allow travelers to have real-time conversations with native speakers, helping them improve their pronunciation and fluency. Furthermore, there are online resources such as ChinesePod and FluentU that provide audio and video lessons, as well as authentic content like news articles and TV shows to help learners immerse themselves in the language. By utilizing these resources, travelers can make the most of their language learning journey and have a more enriching experience while exploring China.

If you’re planning a trip to China, it’s essential to learn some basic Chinese phrases to help you navigate the country. However, there’s more to exploring China than just knowing the language. In an article titled “Mandarin for Hikers: Language for Exploring China’s Natural Landscapes,” you can discover how to communicate effectively while exploring China’s beautiful natural landscapes. From asking for directions to discussing the weather, this article provides useful phrases and vocabulary specifically tailored for hikers and nature enthusiasts. So, before you embark on your adventure, make sure to check out this informative article from LC Chinese School.

Sign up for a free trial class here.

Sign up for classes here.

Learn more about our Chinese Summer Camp for Children here.

Learn about our Internship Program in China.

Get free Chinese learning resources.

Learn about China’s 2024 Offical Holiday Schedule

Ønsker du en gratis prøveklasse? Registrer deg!

Bli med på en gratis prøveklasse i kinesisk!

Do you want a Free Trial Chinese Class? Register now!

Join a Free Trial Chinese Class!