China is a massive country and it has billions of people, so the chances are high that you’ll be interacting with locals on your journey. While most people would say they’re interested in visiting China for the landmarks and sights, it is important learn about all parts of the country’s culture and this includes their language.
Simplified Mandarin Chinese is the most commonly spoken language in China. Travelers who learn the basics of Mandarin will have a better experience and make authentic connections as they explore China.
With unique characters that resemble nothing close to the English alphabet, Mandarin Chinese is also notoriously difficult to learn. However, learning Mandarin has become easier because of major developments in modern technology. Instead of relying on pen, paper and textbooks, you can begin to learn Mandarin online through the use of apps, websites and games.
Our article will help you learn key words and phrases in Mandarin Chinese, so you can travel with ease. We’ve highlighted all the need-to-know words and phrases that are essential for beginners to learn a new language while traveling. You can think of our guide as your survival kit to Mandarin, which will help you navigate the busy streets and landmarks in China.
Countries that speak Mandarin:
- China – official language, along with Cantonese
- Mandarin speakers can be found all over the world
Common to all languages, Mandarin Chinese uses pronouns to identify speakers and other people. Whether you are speaking about yourself or others, it is important to learn the pronouns in Mandarin, so you can be sure that you are addressing others properly. Pronouns are the most basic part of any language and they are one of the first things that travelers should memorize.
While it’s difficult to learn any language, the characters in the Mandarin language are especially difficult to learn. However, with a little studying and practice, travelers can begin to learn their Mandarin pronouns. Respect is an important part of Chinese culture and using the proper pronouns to identify people is a great way to show your appreciation to the local people.
- I, Me — 我
- You — 您 (Nín)
- He, Him — 他 (Ta)
- She, Her — 她 (Ta)
- They, Them — 他们 (Tamen)
As you’re taking in new sights, sounds and smells, travelers are very likely going to ask questions. These are the common question words in Mandarin, which you can use to ask for assistance, recommendations or information.
- Who? — 谁?
- What? — 哦?
- When? — 什么时候？
- Where? — 哪里？(Năli)
- Why? — 为什么？(Wèishéme)
- How? — 怎么样？ (Zěnme yàng)
Respect also means greeting others and being courteous. Travelers who greet locals in their own language are seen as respectful because it shows that you are interested and care about the country’s culture. These short phrases are the best ways to greet others as you interact with the people around you.
- Hello — 你好 (Ni hăo)
- Good morning — 早上好 (Zaoshang hăo)
- Good afternoon — 下午好 (Ziàwu hăo)
- Good evening — 晚上好 (Wångshàng hao)
- Nice to meet you — 很高兴见到你 (Hěn gaoxìng jiàn dào ni)
- Nice to see you — 很高兴见到你 (Hěn gaoxìng jiàn dào ni)
- Welcome — 欢迎 (Huanyíng)
- What is your name? (Informal) — 请问你贵姓大名 (Qingwèn ni guìxìng dàmíng)
- My name is… — 请问你贵姓大名… (Wo de míngzì shì)
After you’ve greeted someone, it is important to say goodbye. Whether you’re just ending a quick conversation or saying hello and then dashing off, the most polite thing is to give a farewell. These phrases are all acceptable ways to say goodbye when you’re ready to end a conversation with someone.
- Goodbye — 再见 (Zàijiàn)
- See you later — 回头见 (Huítóu jiàn)
- See you soon — 很快再见。
- See you tomorrow — 明天见 (Míngtian jiàn)
- Have a good day — 祝你有美好的一天 (Zhù ni you meěihao de yitian)
- Take care — 照顾自己 (Zhàogù zìji)
Small Talk — Feelings
Sometimes a simple “hello” turns into a quick conversation. Travelers may want to make small talk with someone by asking how they are doing. These phrases are all great ways to formally or informally inquire about someone else and how they are feeling.
- How are you? — 你好吗 (Ni hao ma)
- How have you been? — 你近来怎样 (Ni jìnlái zenyàng)
- What’s up? — 什么事?
- I am fine, how are you? — 我很好，你好吗 (Wo hěn hao, ni hao ma)
- Good, and you? — 我很好，你呢 (Wo hěn hao, ni ne)
Small Talk — More Reponses
A local may also inquire about how you are doing and it is important to be able to respond. These phrases are simple ways to state how you are feeling without getting into vocabulary that is too advanced.
- I am very well. — 我很好 (Wo hěn hao)
- I am so-so. — 我还好 (Wo hái hao)
- I am a little tired. — 我有点累 (Wo youdian lèi)
- I am sick. — 我病了 (Wo bìngle)
Manners are very important and these courtesy words can help you demonstrate your respect to the locals. These phrases can be added to the end of a sentence or question, which makes you more polite overall.
- Please — 请 (Qing)
- Thank you — 谢谢 (Xièxiè)
- Thank you very much — 非常感谢!
- You’re welcome — 别客气 (Bié kèqì)
- I am sorry — 对不起 (Duìbùqi)
- Excuse me — 对不起 (Duìbùqi)
- Mister — 先生 (Xiansheng)
- Misses — 未命中 (Wèi mìngzhòng)
- Miss — 小姐 (Xiaojie)
When you’re getting into a conversation, these common phrases tend to be what you’ll hear or be asked as you’re interacting with locals. Curiosity gets the best of people and some of these phrases can be used to get to know a person better. Other phrases can help you ask for assistance when needed.
- How old are you? — 你多大年纪了?
- Where are you from? — 你从哪里来? (Ni cóng nali lái)
- I am from… — 我来自 (Wo láizì)
- What time is it? — 现在是几奌? (Xiànzài shì dian)How much does this cost? — 这个多少钱? (Zhège duoshao qián)
- Who are you? — 你是谁? (Ni shì shéi)
- What is this? — 这是什么？ (Zhè shì shénme)
- Do you understand? — 你理解吗? (Ni lijie ma)
- Do you speak English? — 你会说英语吗? (Ni huì shuo yingyu ma)
- Where is the bathroom? — 洗手间在哪里 (Xishoujian zài nali)
- I need help. — 我需要帮助 (Wo xuyào bangzhù)
- Enjoy your meal — 请享用 (Qing xiangyòng)
- Cheers — 干杯 (Ganbei)
- Well done — 做得好 (Zuò dé hao)
- Don’t worry — 不用担心 (Bùyòng danxin)
Common and Useful Words
Alongside common phrases, there are common words. These are the most common words used in all languages, which can help you quickly respond to a question or statement. You can use these common words to help you express any wants or needs.
- Yes — 是 (Shì)
- No — 没有 (Méiyou)
- Of course — 当然 (Dangrán)
- Always — 总是 (Zong shì)
- Sometimes — 有时 (Youshí)
- Maybe — 有时 (Yexu)
- Never — 决不 (Jué bù)
- Left — 剩下 (Shèng zià)
- Right — 对 (Duì)
- Stop — 停止 (Tíngzhi)
- Hotel — 旅馆 (Lüguan)
- Taxi — 出租车 (Chuzu che)
- Food — 餐饮 (Canyin)
- Water — 水 (Shui)
- Check or bill — 请检查 (Qing jianchá)
A common concept all over the world is color. When you’re trying to communicate with someone, you can use color to label objects to avoid any confusion. Color labeling is also a great way to give or receive directions because you can use the colors of buildings or landmarks to help you find your way around a city or town.
- Red — 红 (Hóng)
- Orange — 橙子 (Chéngzi)
- Yellow — 黄色 (Huángsè)
- Green — 绿色 (Lüsè)
- Blue — 蓝色 (Lán sè)
- Purple — 紫色 (Zisè)
- Pink — 粉 (Fěn)
- Black — 黑色 (Heisè)
- White — 白色 (Báisè)
- Grey — 灰色 (Huisè)
- Brown — 棕色 (Zongsè)
Days of the Week
Managing a busy travel schedule can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to keep track of dates and reservations. Learning the days of the week in Mandarin Chinese is a great way to keep your schedule on track. You can also use your new vocabulary to make reservations for hotels or excursions.
- Day — 天 (Tian)
- Week — 周 (Zhou)
- Monday — 星期一 (Xingqí yi)
- Tuesday — 星期二 (Xingqï’èr)
- Wednesday — 星期三 (Xingqísan)
- Thursday — 星期四 (Xingqísì)
- Friday — 星期五 (Xingqíwu)
- Saturday — 星期六 (Xingqíliù)
- Sunday — 星期日 (Xingqírì)
Here are just a few more phrases that you may hear on your trip. These short phrases aren’t as essential, but they are still a great way to expand your vocabulary.
- Okay — 好的 (Hao de)
- Come here — 过来 (Guòlái)
- My love — 我的爱 (Wo de ài)
- I love you — 我爱你 (Wo ài ni)
- What are you doing? — 你在做什么 (Ni zài shénme)
- Very good — 很好 (Hěn hao)
Practice Makes Perfect
While most travelers are hesitant to tackle a language barrier, the difficultly of learning Mandarin can make visiting China even more daunting. Travelers won’t become a pro at Mandarin for a long time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the basics of the language. With a little practice, you can improve your skills and use your vocabulary to help you travel with confidence.
Practice makes perfect and the key to learning a foreign language is to not give up. Even if you make mistakes, you can learn from your errors and begin to expand your skills. With our guide, you’ll be well on your way to conversing with the locals, so you can dive head first into every experience that you encounter while traveling in China.