Whether you are traveling to China or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic Mandarin Chinese phrases. Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them. I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have. Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.
1) Hi / Bye
Nǐ hǎo (Nee How) / Zàijiàn (Tsy-jee-En)
2) Yes / No
Shi (Shur) / Méiyǒu (May-Yoh)
3) Please / Thank you
Qǐng (Ching) / Xièxiè (shyay-Shyay)
4) Excuse me
5) Where is . . .? (Where is the bathroom?)
…zài nǎlǐ? (Zī nah-Lee) (TIP: …zai nar? (Zī nahr) in Beijing)
Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ? (Say-swoh Zī nah-Lee)
Train station Huǒchē zhàn (ho-Cha Jahn)
Bus station Qìchē zhàn (chee-Cha Jahn)
Police station Jǐng shǔ (Jing Shoo)
Embassy Shǐguǎn (Shur-Gwan)
Hospital Yīyuàn (ee-Yoo-ahn)
6) Take me to …
Dài wǒ qù … (Die Woh Choo)
For this one, I have found it most helpful to have a business card (especially from your hotel), or a written name of the location you wish to go to, and point to it as you say “qù” (Choo). It gives the driver/person a chance to study the location without asking you to repeat anything or to get into a lengthy conversation.
7) Do you speak English? / I don’t speak Mandarin.
Nǐ huì shuō yīngwén ma? (Nee Hway Shwoh Yeeng-wen Mah)
Wǒ bù huì shuō pǔtōnghuà. (Woh Boo Hway Shwoh Poo-tohng-Hwah)
8) How much is this?
Duōshǎo qián? (Dwah-shaow Chee-an)
9) My name is… / What is your name?
Wo jiao… (Woh jeeYow)
Ni jiao shenme mingzi? (Nee jeeYow shan-Muh ming-Zuh)
10) I need a doctor!
Wǒ xūyào yīgè yīshēng! (Who Shoo-yaow ee-Guh yee-Shung)
Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!
The Cheat Sheet:
- Hi / Bye Nǐ hǎo / Zàijiàn
- Yes / No Shi / Méiyǒu
- Please / Thank you Qǐng / Xièxiè
- Excuse me Duìbùqǐ
- Where is…? …zài nǎlǐ?
- Take me to… Dài wǒ qù …
- Do you speak English? Nǐ huì shuō yīngwén ma?
- I don’t speak Mandarin. Wǒ bù huì shuō pǔtōnghuà.
- How much is this? Duōshǎo qián?
- My name is… Wo jiao…
- What is your name? Ni jiao shenme mingzi?
- I need a doctor! Wǒ xūyào yīgè yīshēng!
Author: Robert J. Gorman, Jr.