China Survival Guide

The 2008 Beijing Olympics will start in three days (8th August, 2008), and some of my friends told me they bought tickets to see the performances live in Beijing. However, they didn’t know a tiny bit of Chinese and are afraid to communicate with the Chinese. Therefore, I tried to teach them a couple of Chinese phrases so that they can enjoy themselves more without encountering major communication problems during their trip.

I hope that the China Survival Guide can help you have a wonderful trip to China:

1. 不要 (bù yào)

This is probably the most important phrase for you to memorize. It’s not really that hard, it only contains two syllables, so bear it in mind! Its meaning is “No, I don’t want it!” Let me explain: as a foreigner in China, you are like a magnet, especially to people who want to sell things to you. For the first few days, maybe you won´t mind the salespersons approaching you and selling their products. However, after some days you will probably get annoyed at the herds of Chinese trying to sell maps, souvenirs, chopsticks, food, bags, clothes, etc. to you. This is where phrase No.1 comes into place. When you see those salespersons approaching you, just keep on walking, keep your eyes straight ahead and don’t give them the slightest notice (this is very crucial for success!) and say “不要” (bù yào) . Don’t be afraid that they won’t understand what you are talking about as it is very easy to pronounce and they must know what you are trying to say.

2. 干杯 (gàn bēi)

I am now in Germany, and this is often the first phrase people want to learn. What does that mean? It means “Cheers!”/ “Prost!” The literal meaning of the word for “干杯” (gàn bēi) in Chinese is “dry the cup”, which means you have to finish the alcohol in your cup and “to make the cup dry”. However, when you are in the Southern Cantonese speaking regions, the word for “Cheers!” is “饮胜” (yĭn shèng) instead of “干杯” (gàn bēi).

3. 埋单 (mǎi dān)

This means that you want to get the bill. Note that it can also be written as “买单” which is pronounced in the same way. When you are at the restaurant and want to leave, you raise your hand and ask the waiter to come to your table. You can also call out by saying “服务员” (fú wù yuán) which means waiter. When they come to you, you can just say “埋单” (mǎi dān) and they will understand you want the bill.

4. The Basic Conversations

There is also the usual stuff like Hello, Bye, Thank you etc. which are really useful, and you can probably find them in all guidebooks. Here is a list of some basic phrases:

  • Hello 你好 nǐ hǎo
  • Goodbye 再见 zài jiàn
  • Thank you 谢谢 xiè xiè
  • I love you 我爱你 wǒ ài nǐ (Maybe you will meet someone and fall in love at first sight)
  • My name is (Laura). 我叫 (Laura) . Wǒ jiào (Laura).

Try to do the quiz below and see how much you know about the Basic Chinese words.Or check out this Chinese conversation survival guide.

Learn languages - language quiz

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