Discovering Mandarin: A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Chinese Phrases

Mandarin, also known as Standard Chinese, is the most spoken language in the world. With over 1 billion native speakers, learning Mandarin can open up a world of opportunities in business and travel. Whether you are interested in exploring the rich culture and history of China or expanding your career prospects, Mandarin is a valuable language to learn.

While Mandarin may seem challenging at first, it is a rewarding language to learn. The unique tones and characters make it a fascinating language to study. By learning Mandarin, you not only gain a new skill but also gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and society.

Basic Greetings and Introductions: Ni Hao (Hello), Wo Jiao (My name is)

One of the first things you will learn when studying Mandarin is how to greet someone. The most common greeting is “Ni Hao,” which means “Hello” in English. It is important to note that Mandarin has different tones, so the pronunciation is crucial.

Introducing yourself is also an essential part of any conversation. To say “My name is,” you would say “Wo Jiao” followed by your name. For example, if your name is John, you would say “Wo Jiao John.” This simple phrase allows you to introduce yourself and start a conversation with someone in Mandarin.

Numbers and Counting: Yi, Er, San (One, Two, Three)

Counting is an essential skill in any language, and Mandarin is no exception. Learning how to count from one to ten in Mandarin will help you navigate everyday situations such as ordering food or asking for directions.

In Mandarin, the numbers from one to ten are as follows: yi (one), er (two), san (three), si (four), wu (five), liu (six), qi (seven), ba (eight), jiu (nine), shi (ten). It is important to practice the pronunciation of these numbers to ensure accuracy.

Ordering Food and Drinks: Zhe Ge, Na Ge (This one, That one), Wo Yao (I want)

Ordering Food and Drinks: Zhe Ge, Na Ge (This one, That one), Wo Yao (I want)
Number of times ‘Zhe Ge’ was used 25
Number of times ‘Na Ge’ was used 18
Number of times ‘Wo Yao’ was used 32
Number of successful orders 70
Number of unsuccessful orders 5
Percentage of successful orders 93%

Food is an integral part of Chinese culture, and being able to order food and drinks in Mandarin will enhance your dining experience. When at a restaurant or street vendor, you can use the phrases “zhe ge” and “na ge” to indicate “this one” and “that one” respectively. For example, if you want to order a specific dish, you can point and say “zhe ge” to indicate your choice.

To express your desire for something, you can use the phrase “wo yao,” which means “I want.” For example, if you want to order a bowl of noodles, you can say “wo yao yi wan mian.” This phrase will help you communicate your preferences and make ordering food easier.

Asking for Directions: Zai Na Li (Where is), Zou Na Bian (Go that way)

Getting lost in a foreign country can be stressful, but knowing how to ask for directions in Mandarin can help alleviate some of that stress. The phrase “zai na li” means “where is” and can be used to ask for directions. For example, if you are looking for a specific street, you can ask “zai na li ma?”

To understand basic directions, the phrase “zou na bian” means “go that way.” This phrase can be used when someone is giving you directions and pointing in a specific direction. By learning these basic phrases, you can navigate your way around and explore new places with ease.

Time and Dates: Jintian (Today), Mingtian (Tomorrow), Xingqi (Week)

Knowing how to tell time and understand dates is important for travel and business. In Mandarin, the word for “today” is “jintian,” “tomorrow” is “mingtian,” and “week” is “xingqi.” These words are commonly used in everyday conversations and will help you schedule appointments or make plans.

To express the time, Mandarin uses a combination of numbers and words. For example, to say “1 o’clock,” you would say “yi dian.” To say “2:30,” you would say “liang dian ban.” It is important to practice these time expressions to ensure accuracy and clarity in your conversations.

Shopping and Bargaining: Duo Shao Qian (How much), Pian Yi Dian (A little cheaper)

Shopping is a fun activity in China, and being able to bargain and negotiate prices in Mandarin can enhance your shopping experience. The phrase “duo shao qian” means “how much” and can be used to ask for the price of an item. For example, if you see something you like in a store, you can ask the shopkeeper “duo shao qian?”

To negotiate a lower price, you can use the phrase “pian yi dian,” which means “a little cheaper.” This phrase can be used when you want to negotiate the price of an item. By learning these bargaining phrases, you can engage in the local shopping culture and potentially save some money.

Expressing Emotions: Hen Gao Xing (Very happy), Bu Tai Hao (Not too good)

Being able to express emotions is important for effective communication. In Mandarin, there are various phrases to express different emotions. For example, to say “very happy,” you would say “hen gao xing.” To say “not too good,” you would say “bu tai hao.”

By learning these basic emotional expressions, you can better connect with others and convey your feelings accurately. Emotions are a universal language, and being able to express them in Mandarin will enhance your communication skills.

Transportation: Didi (Taxi), Dian Che (Electric bike)

Getting around in China can be challenging, but knowing how to use basic transportation in Mandarin can make your travels easier. The word for “taxi” in Mandarin is “didi,” and the word for “electric bike” is “dian che.” These are common modes of transportation in China and are widely used by locals and tourists alike.

By learning these transportation phrases, you can navigate the city and explore new places with ease. Whether you need to hail a taxi or rent an electric bike, knowing the Mandarin words for these modes of transportation will help you communicate your needs effectively.

Keep Practicing!

Learning Mandarin takes time and practice, but with dedication and perseverance, you can become proficient in the language. It is important to keep practicing and using your new language skills to improve and become more confident in Mandarin.

Find opportunities to practice speaking Mandarin with native speakers or language exchange partners. Immerse yourself in Chinese culture by watching movies, listening to music, or reading books in Mandarin. The more you expose yourself to the language, the faster you will progress.

Remember that learning a new language is a journey, and it is okay to make mistakes along the way. Embrace the challenges and celebrate your progress. With time and effort, you will be able to communicate effectively in Mandarin and open up a world of opportunities.

If you’re just starting to learn Chinese phrases, you might also be interested in exploring traditional Chinese musical instruments. Check out this article on 5 famous traditional Chinese musical instruments to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and music. Read more

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!