13 Useful Chinese Phrases
03 Mar 2022
Once you teach English in China, with these useful Chinese phrases, you won’t be lost. Enjoy and keep teaching (and learning)!
Are you worried about coming to China to teach English and not knowing a word of Chinese? Don’t sweat, it’s not a must to learn Chinese but it is extremely beneficial. So in that case, with the numbers of TEFL teachers, expats and travelers heading to China increasing year on year, our friends at Instant Mandarin have provided some useful Chinese phrases for traveling around China. So if you’re prepared and are carrying a little pocket guide of Chinese phrases then you may have seen some of these phrases before and it would be a handy recap, if not, then you should make some notes. In no particular order, let’s get learning.
Bù hǎo yìsi, wǒ tīng bù dǒng
I’m sorry, I don’t understand
As a first time traveler or a frequent traveler to China, there is no doubt that there will be things you won’t understand. If someone says something to you in Chinese and you have no idea what they are saying, then you can use this phrase. Many Chinese will be understanding. However, if you do try to speak more of their language, locals will be positively surprised, very appreciative and will encourage you to speak more.
Zhè ge duōshǎo qián?
How much is this?
As a tourist or expat in China, of course, you will want to flutter some money on some souvenirs. It is absolutely inevitable that you will be spending money on your travels whether for luxury items or the bare necessities. If you want to know how much something is then this question is a must.
Once you have settled on something you want to buy or something you want to do then you can use these two words + what you want or want to do – to express yourself. For example 我要蛋糕(I want cake) and 我要喝水 (I want to drink water).
Qǐng wèn, nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ ma
Excuse me, can you help me?
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Chinese people are some of the friendliest, especially if they see a foreign face. They will almost always be willing to assist you. If you need a little help then you can utter these useful words.
Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ lǐ
Where is the bathroom/washroom/toilet
The first time you land in the city or enter a building at some point you might need to identify the location of the toilets. Well, the toilet is important, especially if you’re in a completely foreign place. Sure, sometimes you can spot the ‘male’ and ‘female’ signs but what happens if you can’t or you’re on the street and you need to go. You can use this handy little sentence here. It will save you.
Wǒ xiǎng qù…
I want to go…
Do you know where you want to go but don’t know how to get there or are you having a friendly chat with a local and want to reveal the places you’d like to go. Either way you can use this phrase + the place you want to go to e.g. 我想去地铁站(I want to go to the metro station) and 我想去上海(I want to go to Shanghai).
Mǎi dān, xiè xie
Pay the bill, thank you!
You’ve tasted some of the culinary delights of China and filled your belly till your heart’s content. You’ve had a few sips of Oolong Chinese tea and allowed your tummy to settle. It’s time to pay the bill and continue on your journey. What do you do next? Wave your hand to catch the waiter’s attention and shout fúwùyuán (waiter), then you can ask for the bill.
Jiè guò yíxià
Please excuse me
China is a place with a famously large population. The chances are if you are traveling to China during peak tourist season, you will find yourself in the middle of a crowd sometime. During rush hour, you can get on the metro, and a block of people are between you and the door but don’t worry, you can take a deep breath. How do you get out, the polite way would be to say this – ‘please excuse me’.
Zhè lǐ yǒu WiFi ma?…WiFi mìmǎ shì shénme?
Is there WiFi here?… What is the WiFi password?
Where would we be without our phones? Around the world, you see people glued to their screens and in China, it’s no different. We know it’s difficult to separate yourself from your phone. Especially going to a different country, it keeps you connected with home. It is definitely worth thinking about getting a local sim card to avoid expensive charges. However, you can also avoid using too much data by looking for local WiFi hotspots, in bars and restaurants.
Wait a moment/hang on a sec
Waiting for a street vendor to cook some street food or waiting in line for a table at a busy restaurant? You will hear this sentence in many situations where you have to wait a certain amount of time. Of course, you can also use it yourself if you’re the one making someone wait