Lexi Ward

When I first started thinking about teaching English in China I was really worried about my lack of Chinese skills but when I arrived I realized I didn't need any Chinese to teach in the classroom and EF provides lots of really great basic Chinese courses to help you get up to scratch.

We're going to present some basic words and phrases that might be useful when you come across a Mandarin speaker.

We have included a few polite phrases and some easy ones to help you when you first arrive.

1. qing wen yi xia请问一下

Meaning: May I ask, please?

When to use: You use this phrase when you find yourself on the street and need to ask a question to someone you don't know. You can start by saying "请问一下" (qǐngwèn yī xià) to get their attention before posing your question.

2. dui bu qi 对不起

Meaning: Sorry, excuse me.

When to use: You use this phrase, "对不起" (duìbùqǐ), when you find yourself in a situation, such as in the metro, where you accidentally bump into someone. It's a way to apologize and then continue with your activities.

3. mei guan xi 没关系.

Meaning: Don't worry about it; it's nothing.

When to use: When someone has thanked you for doing something, you can respond with phrases like "no worries," "it's okay," or "no problem."

4. ni hui shuo ying wen ma 你会说英文吗?

Meaning: Can you speak English?

When to use: I use this phrase frequently when I find myself in a situation where I am unable to communicate in Chinese. Initially, I may attempt to start the conversation in Chinese, but if it becomes challenging, I ask, "你会说英文吗?" (Can you speak English?) to determine if we can switch to English for a more detailed conversation.

5. shenme shihou 什么时候

Meaning: When? or What time?

When to use: I use this phrase when making arrangements with my Chinese friends, especially when I'm unsure about the specific time. It helps to clarify the timing of an event or activity.

6. zen me qu na li 怎么去哪里

Meaning: How do I get there?

When to use: This is a useful phrase when you need to ask for directions, especially if you find yourself at a metro stop that you're unfamiliar with. You can approach attendants or locals and ask them how to get to a specific place.

7. zhe ge zhong wen zen me shuo 这个中文怎么说?

Meaning: How can I say this in Chinese?

When to use: This is a valuable phrase to use when you're learning Chinese. It allows you to explore and learn from the environment around you. If you encounter something and want to know its name in Chinese, you can simply ask, "这个中文怎么说?" (Zhège Zhōngwén zěnme shuō?), and hopefully, someone will provide you with the correct word.

8. duo shao qian 多少钱

Meaning: How much is it?

When to use: This is a crucial phrase, especially when you first arrive. As you explore and enjoy various Chinese foods, including street food, it's important to know the price. In these situations, you can ask, "多少钱?" (Duōshǎo qián?), and they will let you know the cost.

9. Hen gao xing ren shi ni 很高兴认识你

Meaning: Nice to meet you.

When to use: This phrase is commonly used in formal situations, especially when meeting someone important. Upon the initial handshake or introduction, you can politely say "很高兴认识你" (Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ) to express that it's a pleasure to meet them. In less formal situations, especially among friends, a simple "你好" (Nǐ hǎo) can be used to greet and convey a friendly introduction.

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Lexi Ward

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