10 Chinese Words/Phrases you Should Know Before Going

It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to learn a new language. For native-English speakers, Mandarin is particularly difficult as it comes from a completely different language family. Most visitors won’t be able to master the language, however everyone who stays for an extended period should take the trouble to learn ‘Survival Chinese’.

Here are the top ten Survival Chinese phrases you should learn to make your life in China easier:


多小钱 | Duō xiǎo qián?

This is how you ask how much something costs (literally means ‘much little money’). A very useful phrase as often times, in markets and such, prices aren’t necessarily marked, and it’s wise to know the price before trying something.


再见!| Zàijiàn!

Good bye! A direct translation is ‘again see’.


不好意思 | Bù hǎo yìsi.

Sorry! In an unfamiliar country, sometimes mistakes in etiquette are maid. Saying ‘sorry’ will help to clear things up.


在那里?Zài nàlǐ?

“Located where”, or “where”. A useful sentence might be the place you are looking for, followed by ‘Zài nàlǐ’. For example: “Yōnghé gōng zài nàlǐ? (Where is the Yonghegong temple).


不要 | Bùyào.

As a tourist you might unfortately often have to fend off merchants trying to hawk you things you might not be interested in. Bùyào is a handy phrase to handle these people. It literally means ‘not want’ and should convey your message clearly.



1 – 一

2 – 二

3 – 三

4 – 四

5 – 五

6 – 六

7 – 七

8 – 八

9 – 九

10 – 十

You may also see them written in the common (non-Chinese) form.


我要一个 | Wǒ yào yīgè.

“I want one (of something)”. How many lamb kebabs, or fish balls (or anything countable really), do you want? This is how to answer. Substitute one (一)for the number of your choice.


谢谢 | Xièxiè

Thank you!


你好 | Nǐ hǎo

Hello! Start with this to greet someone. A fast way to make friends.


啤酒 | Píjiǔ

Beer. If you’re like me, this might be one of the most handy words to know when you get off your long flight. Try combining this word with a prior phrase to ask for a beer from your local bar, restaurant, or convenience store: 我要一个啤酒 | Wǒ yào yīgè píjiǔ (“I would like one beer”).