China is one of the most well-known and most traveled-to countries in the world. From Beijing to Shanghai, China has so much culture to offer. You could visit the Great Wall of China and look out over the world, or walk through time in the Forbidden City.
No matter what you do in China, there are a few key phrases that you should know.
If you didn’t know, the official language of China is Mandarin, with about 70% of the population speaking it. However, the other 30% can be divided into a few different languages and dialects, like Cantonese and Hunanese.
We’ll be focusing on Mandarin because the most tourist-heavy locations in China speak Mandarin. Some of the words and phrases can be difficult to pronounce, so I’ll include a pronunciation with each translation. With this guide and your Jarvisen Translator, you’ll be ready for China in no time!
Sometimes, all it takes is a word to get your point across. That point could be just a simple greeting or politeness.
One common phrase in any culture is “hello.” When greeting someone in Mandarin, you’d say ni hao (你好).
When you want to be polite, a “thank you” never hurts! If you’ve just gotten directions to the Forbidden City, you could say xièxiè (谢谢).
If you’re going for polite, “please” is the cherry on top. Whether you’re asking for someone to take a picture or ordering some delicious Shrimp Dumpling Soup, saying qing (请) is always a nice gesture, and may just get you some extra patience from the native you’re speaking to!
Finally, sometimes you just need to go. No matter where you are, you’ll eventually have to use the restroom, so this simple phrase can help you get there, even if you don’t have time to pull out your Jarvisen Translator. Asking someone Wèishēngjiān (卫生间) will get the job done and help you get where you need to be.
Words aren’t enough when traveling abroad. You need to know phrases, too! And these phrases will help you navigate China like a pro.
Sometimes, it’s best to admit what you don’t know. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Mandarin” can help you to find someone who speaks your language if you need them. Simply say Duìbùqǐ, wǒ bù huì shuō pǔtōnghuà (对不起，我不会说普通话).
There is no shame in asking someone if they can speak your language, either. As long as you ask nicely, you’ll be one step closer to getting what or where you need. Nǐ néng shuō yīngyǔ ma (你能说英语吗) means “Can you speak English?” and will no doubt help you out.
Especially in a nation of beautiful monuments and attractions, you’ll always be going somewhere, so knowing how to ask “How can I get to [Name of Place]?” is a must-know. Simply say Wǒ zěnme qù [Name of Place]? (我怎么去?) and you’ll get where you need to go.
We all love souvenirs, so it’s no surprise that you need to know how to ask how much something is. Hold up the item or point and ask how much it is, like this: Zhège duōshǎo qián? (这个多少钱?)
Last, but not least, you’ll want to share what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned about China’s amazing culture with the world--or just the folks back home. So, you may have to ask where you can use the internet. That’s easy: Wǒ zài nǎlǐ kěyǐ shǐyòng hùliánwǎng? (我在哪里可以使用互联网?)
Don’t let not knowing a language keep you from falling in love with its culture!