We’ve noticed you might be viewing our website from a different location. Visit your regional site for more relevant information and pricing.

14 Useful Chinese Phrases and How to Learn Them

Going to a new country is always hard, especially when they speak a completely different language to yours. What’s even harder is when that different language has a completely different alphabet and a very different way of writing. All of these factors might make you nervous when you’re about to go to that country. A lot of “what if” questions come up in your head: what if I don’t know where I am? What if I can’t ask for directions? What if my plane is cancelled and I’m stuck there? What if no one around me speaks English? What if I lose my money? What if I miss my stop on a train or bus? What if I get ill? What if I need to see a doctor?

The Chinese phrases below will hopefully calm a few of these nerves and “what if” questions, if you have any, as you will now know a way to sort the problem, maybe using one of the Chinese phrases. There is no need to worry too much - you just need a bit of preparation time.

Author: Toria Peirson
03 Dec 16:24

Lots of people don’t want to or are sacred to try and learn a new language. There are many reasons why someone might be scared, some of these might be:

  • they don’t want to get it wrong and offend anyone (which they won’t)
  • you won’t offend anyone, they will appreciate the effort you put into learning their language
  • they won't remember any phrases or specific words or grammar of the language
  • it’s a very hard and time consuming thing to do - learning a language is not necessarily time-consuming, only if you want it to be but it can only take about 10 minutes a day, depending on how much time you have but this will be over a long period of time

Yes, learning a new language is really hard to do, especially when it is one very different to yours (such as Chinese), but it is definitely possible and there are loads of different tools that there are to help you learn. Apps that can help include: duolingo (free), memrise (free) and babble. You just need to keep working at it, ten minutes a day and you will know most of the basics that you will need when you go to China.

If you’re scared that you’ll get it wrong when talking to someone, just remember that they will be very grateful that you tried to learn their language and you are trying speak in that language, clearly showing that you don’t just expect them to learn your language, which they will like. Just try and they will appreciate it.

Chinese is obviously a very different language to English, the characters are definitely not the same, unlike Spanish or French which use the same alphabet. A different alphabet makes the language much harder to learn so it will need a bit more effort, definitely start learning a while before you go to China - the earlier the better. You’ll remember some phrases easily but others you might keep forgetting - the earlier you start learning the more phrases you will remember but don’t worry about forgetting them, just keep persevering.

Also, don’t go full-on every minute of everyday trying to fully learn this language - it takes a long, long time to become completely fluent in a new language and if you don’t give yourself any time to rest or try to remember too much at once, you will make it harder for yourself and probably won’t remember it all. Although, everyone learns differently and if that is the way that you’re most comfortable and most able to learn then do what’s best for you. I think that the best way is to learn key phrases and go over them everyday and try to remember them bit by bit. This will only take up about 15 minutes of your day, so you don’t need to worry about being too busy.

  • Set long-term and short-term goals
  • Make a timetable of when you will practice - whether it’s 15 minutes a day or 3 hours, do what’s best for you.
  • Motivation - make sure your motivated to learn (a learning timetable can help)
  • Master the basics
  • Find activities that combine writing, reading, listening and speaking - split them into:

    • listening and writing, write down what you hear
    • reading and speaking, read out-loud

Remember, these are only tips on how you could learn, just do what you think is the best way for you to learn.

To help calm any nerves you may be having about going to China, and even if you don’t these will still be helpful, here are some useful Chinese phrases that you might need to use when you go to China.

  • Hello 你好 - Nǐ hǎo (nee how)

  • Bye 再见 - Zàijiàn (sitien)

  • How are you? 你好吗 - Nǐ hǎo ma (nee how ma)

  • Sorry 抱歉 - Bàoqiàn (bao tien)

  • I don’t understand 我不明白 - Wǒ bù míngbái (woa boo ming bai)

  • Please 请 - Qǐng (si-ing)

  • Thank you 谢谢 - Xièxiè (sieay sieay)

  • You’re welcome 别客气 - Bié kèqì (beeay kotchi)

  • I would like… 我想要 - Wǒ xiǎng yào (woa chang wow)

  • Where is the bathroom? 洗手间在哪里 - Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ (sishotien sen nali)

  • Do you speak English? 你会说英语吗 - Nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma (nee hoi sho yingyu ma)

  • Where am I? 我在哪里 - Wǒ zài nǎlǐ (woa zan nalee)

  • How do I get to… 我怎么去 - Wǒ zěnme qù (wo senmeh tchu)

  • I need to see a doctor 我需要去看医生 - Wǒ xūyào qù kàn yīshēng (woa shee yall tchu cieen shung)

Hopefully, these useful Chinese phrases will help you in your trip to China or at least make it a tiny bit easier and less stressful - not that it will be very stressful. Remember the top tips on how to learn as well, good luck (not that you’ll need it).

Toria Peirson

Want new blog posts sent directly to your inbox?