Common Chinese Phrases for the Traveler

Learning some common Chinese phrases will make it easier to get around during a trip to China. Prepare for your trip by having this list handy to refer to for getting around and communicating. Before you leave, be sure to listen to the proper pronunciation of these phrases by looking for Chinese language instruction online. It is useful to hear Chinese words pronounced until you can repeat them perfectly, as even an incorrect tonal variation of the same syllable in Chinese can change the meaning of a phrase to one you didn't intend. You may also be able to download applications for travel phrases in Chinese to your iPod or iPhone. 

Understanding Dialects
These phrases are in Mandarin Chinese, the most common dialect and the nationally recognized language of China. You'll find Mandarin spoken in major cities, but this dialect sometimes isn't used in rural areas. For this reason, it's a good idea not to travel too far from Chinese cities without a translator. If you wish to see the countryside, make arrangements at your hotel or with a local travel agency to find a translator who is fluent in local dialects.

If you decide to learn any additional phrases, be sure to learn the formal constructions. Respect and good manners are highly valued in Chinese society. As a guest of the Chinese people, you should be on your best behavior at all times, which means always using formal language to talk with people.

Phrases to Learn
Here are some essential Chinese phrases to learn before you travel:

  • Hello: Ni hao
  • How are you? Ni hao ma?
  • Nice to meet you: Ren shin in hen gao xing.
  • What's your name? Ni jiao shen me ming zi?
  • My name is ___: Wo jiao ____ ye.
  • Thank you: Xie xie.
  • You're welcome: Bu yong xie.
  • Excuse me: Qing wen.
  • Good morning: Ni zao
  • Good evening: Wan shang hao
  • I want to order something to eat: Wo yao dian cai.
  • What kind of dish is this? Zhe shi shen me cai?
  • I want to go to this place: Wo yao qu zher.
  • Where is…? Zai nar...?
  • Taxi: chu zu che
  • Car: qui che
  • Bus: gong gong qi che
  • Subway: di tie
  • Airplane: fei ji
  • Airport: ji chang
  • Arrival: arrivo
  • How much does it cost Duo shao qian?
  • Can you help me? Potrebbe aiutarmi?
  • Do you speak English? Hui shuo ying yu ma?
  • Could you please repeat that? Qing zai shuo yi bian?
  • Could you speak more slowly? Qing man man shuo?
  • Where is the bathroom? Ce suo zai nar?
  • I can't speak Chinese: Wo bu hui sho han yu.
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