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Chinese phrasebook - Traditional

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Chinese script in Chinatown, Singapore

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China and Taiwan, and is one of the official languages of Singapore. In English, it is often just called "Mandarin" or "Chinese". In China, it is called Putonghua (普通话), meaning "common speech", while in Taiwan it is referred to as Guoyu (國語), "the national language." It has been the main language of education in China (excluding Hong Kong) since the 1950s. Standard Mandarin is close to, but not quite identical to, the Mandarin dialect of the Beijing area. Note that while the spoken Mandarin in the above places is more or less the same, the written characters are different. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, traditional characters are used, whereas China and Singapore use a simplified derivative.

Understand

Map of Chinese dialects

Note that "dialect" has a different meaning when applied to Chinese from when it is appied to other languages.

Chinese "dialects" are mutually unintelligible, as different as, say, Italian and French, which we would call "related languages" rather than "dialects".

All Chinese dialects, in general, use the same characters in reading and writing. A Cantonese speaker and a Mandarin speaker cannot talk to each other, but either can generally read what the other writes. Even a speaker of Japanese or Korean will recognise many characters.

An exception arises where in some spoken dialects, for example Cantonese as used in Hong Kong, more informal phrasings are used in everyday speech than what would be written. Thus, there are some extra characters that are sometimes used in addition to the common characters to represent the spoken dialect and other colloquial words.

One additional complication is that mainland China and Singapore use simplified characters, a long-debated change completed by the mainland Chinese government in 1956 to facilitate the standardization of language across China's broad minority groups and sub-dialects of Mandarin and other Chinese languages. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and many overseas Chinese still use the traditional characters. In addition, the Dungan language, which is spoken in some parts of Russia, is considered to be a variant of Mandarin but uses the Cyrillic alphabet instead of Chinese characters.

About one fifth of the people in the world speak some form of Chinese as their native language. It is a tonal language that is related to Burmese and Tibetan. Although Japanese and Korean use Chinese written characters the spoken languages are not related to Chinese. Also the unrelated Vietnamese language has borrowed many words from Chinese.

One additional complication is that mainland China and Singapore use simplified characters, a long-debated change completed by the mainland Chinese government in 1956 to facilitate the standardization of language across China's broad minority groups and sub-dialects of Mandarin and other Chinese languages. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and many overseas Chinese still use the traditional characters. In addition, the Dungan language, which is spoken in some parts of Russia, is considered to be a variant of Mandarin but uses the Cyrillic alphabet instead of Chinese characters.

About one fifth of the people in the world speak some form of Chinese as their native language, making it the most spoken language in the world. It is a tonal language that is related to Burmese and Tibetan. Although Japanese and Korean use Chinese written characters and a large number of Chinese loanwords, they are not even in the same language family. Rather they are related in a manner that resembles English having a lot of Romance language-derived loanwords while still being a Germanic language. Also, the unrelated Vietnamese language (which uses a distinctive version of the Latin alphabet) language has borrowed many words from Chinese and at one time used Chinese characters as well.

Travellers headed for Guangdong, Hong Kong or Macau may find Cantonese more useful than Mandarin. Those heading for Taiwan or southern Fujian may find the Minnan dialect useful as well.

Chinese, like most other Asian languages such as Arabic, is famous for being difficult to learn. While English speakers would initially have problems with the tones and recognizing the many different characters (Chinese has no alphabet), the grammar is very simple and can be picked up very easily. Most notably, Chinese grammar does not have conjugation, tenses, gender, plurals or other grammatical rules found in other major languages such as English or French.

Pronunciation guide

The pronunciation guide below uses Hanyu pinyin, the official romanization of the People's Republic of China. Until recently, Taiwan used the Wade-Giles system, which is quite different, then switched to Tongyong pinyin, only slightly different from Hanyu pinyin, and now officially uses Hanyu pinyin just like the People's Republic.

Pinyin allows very accurate pronunciation of Chinese if you understand how it works, but the way that it uses letters like q, x, c, z and even i is not at all intuitive to the English speaker. Studying the pronunciation guide below carefully is thus essential. After you master the pronunciation you still may not be understood, its time to move on to the next challenge, speaking the accurate tones.

Some pinyin vowels (especially "e", "i", "ü") can be tricky, so it is best to get a native speaker to demonstrate. Also, beware of the spelling rules listed in the exceptions below.

as in father; otherwise, pronounced as in "awesome"
a in an
as "a" in "cat" or "back" (just the English short "a" sound)
unrounded back vowel (IPA [ɤ]), similar to duh; in unstressed syllables becames a schwa (IPA [ə]), like idea
as in see or key;
after sh, zh, s, z or r, not really a vowel at all but just a stretched-out consonant sound
as in saw
as in soon; but read ü in ju, qu, yu and xu
ü 
as in French lune or German grün

Diphthongs

These are the diphthongs in Chinese:

ai 
as in pie
ao
as in pouch
ei 
as in pay
ia
as in ya
ia in ' ian'
as in 'yes
iao
as in meow
ie
as in yes
iong
as in Pyongyang
ou
as in mow
ua
as in what
uo
as in war

Consonants

Chinese stops distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated, not voiceless and voiced as in English. Aspirated sounds are pronounced with a distinctive puff of air as they are pronounced in English when at the beginning of a word, while unaspirated sounds are pronounced without the puff, as in English when found in clusters.

Place a hand in front of your mouth and compare pit (aspirated) with spit (unaspirated) to see the difference.

Unaspirated Aspirated
b
as in spot
p
as in pit
d
as in do
t
as in tongue
g
as in skin
k
as in king
j
as in jeer
q
as in cheap
zh
as in jungle
ch
as in chore
z
as in zebra
c
as in rats

Here are the other consonants in Chinese:

as in mow
as in fun
as in none or none
as in lease but pronounced like a Spanish "r" in "rojo"
as in her
as in sheep
sh 
as in shoot
as in fair, but can be "zh" as in "pleasure"
as in sag
ng 
as in sing
as in wing but silent in wu. Before a, ai, ang, eng, and/or o, this may sound like the English v/ German w.
as in yet but silent in yi, yu

If you think that is a fairly intimidating repertoire, rest assured that many Chinese people, particularly those who are not native Mandarin speakers, will merge many of the sounds above (especially q with ch and j with zh).

Exceptions

There are a fairly large number of niggling exceptions to the basic rules above, based on the position of the sound:

wu- 
as u-, so 五百 wubai is pronounced "ubai"
yi- 
as i-, so 一个 yige is pronounced "ige"
yü- 
as ü-, so 豫园 Yuyuan is pronounced "ü-üan"

Tones

How do I put my tone marks?
If you are confused by how to put tone marks above the Hanyu Pinyin, follow the steps below:

Always insert tone marks above the vowels. If there is more than one vowel letter, follow the steps below:

(1) Insert it above the 'a' if that letter is present. For example, it is rǎo and not raǒ

(2) If not, insert it above 'o'. For example, guó and not gúo

(3) Insert it above the letter 'e' if the letters 'a' and 'o' are not present. For example, jué and not júe

(4) If only 'i', 'u' and 'ü' are the only present letters, insert it in the letter that occurs last. For example, jiù and not jìu, chuí and not chúi. Note, if the vowel present is ü, the tone mark is put in addition to the umlaut. For example, lǜ

There are four tones in Mandarin that must be followed for proper pronunciation. If you are not used to tonal languages, never underestimate the importance of these tones. Consider a vowel with a different tone as simply a different vowel altogether, and you will realize why Chinese will not understand you if you use the wrong tone — is to as "I want a cake" is to "I want a coke". Be especially wary of questions that have a falling tone, or conversely exclamations that have an "asking" tone (eg jǐngchá, police). In other words, pronounced like does not imply meaning. While Mandarin speakers also vary their tone just like English speakers do to differentiate a statement from a question and convey emotion, this is much more subtle than in English. Do not try it until you have mastered the basic tones.

1. first tone ( ā ) 
flat, high pitch that is more sung instead of spoken.
2. second tone ( á ) 
low to middle, rising pitch that is pronounced like the end of a question phrase (Whát?).
3. third tone ( ǎ ) 
middle to low to high, dipping pitch: for two consecutive words in the third tone, the first word is pronounced as if it is in the second tone. For example, 打扰 dǎrǎo is pronounced as dárǎo.
4. fourth tone ( à ) 
high to low, rapidly falling pitch that is pronounced like a command (Stop!).
5. fifth tone 
neutral pitc that is rarely used by itself (except for phrase particles) but frequently occurring as the second part of a phrase.

Phrase list

All phrases shown in here use the traditional characters used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, For the simplifed characters used in Mainland China, see Chinese phrsebook.

Basics

To be or not to be?
Chinese does not have words for "yes" and "no" as such; instead, questions are typically answered by repeating the verb. Here are common examples:

To be or not to be
是 shì, 不是 bú shì
To have or not have / there is or is not
有 yǒu, 沒有 méi yǒu
To be right or wrong
對 duì, 不對 bú duì


Hello. 
你好。 Nǐ hǎo.
How are you? 
你好嗎? Nǐ hǎo ma?
Fine, thank you. 
很好, 謝謝。 Hěn hǎo, xièxie.
What is your (first) name? 
你叫什麼名字? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?
My name is ______ . 
我叫 _____ 。 Wǒ jiào ______ .
Nice to meet you. 
很高興認識你。 Hěn gāoxìng rènshì nǐ.
Please. 
請。 Qǐng.
Thank you. 
謝謝。 xièxie.
You're welcome. 
不客氣。 Bú kèqi.
Excuse me. (getting attention
請問 qǐng wèn.
Excuse me. (begging pardon
打擾一下。 Dǎrǎo yixià ; 麻煩您一下, Máfan nǐ yíxià.
I'm sorry. 
對不起。 Duìbùqǐ.
Goodbye 
再見。 Zàijiàn.
Goodbye (informal
拜拜。 Bai-bai. (Byebye)
I can't speak Chinese. 
我不會說漢語。 Wǒ bú huì shuō hànyǔ.
Do you speak English? 
你會說英語嗎? Nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
這裏有人會說英語嗎? Zhèlǐ yǒu rén huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?
Help! (in emergencies)
救命! Jiù mìng!
Good morning. 
早安。 Zǎo ān.
Good evening. 
晚上好。 Wǎnshàng hǎo.
Good night. 
晚安。 Wǎn ān.
I don't understand. 
我聽不懂。 Wǒ tīng bù dǒng.
Where is the toilet? 
廁所在哪里? Cèsuŏ zài nǎli?

Problems

Leave me alone. 
不要打擾我。 (búyào dǎrǎo wǒ)
Don't touch me! 
不要碰我! (búyào pèng wǒ!)
I'll call the police. 
我要叫警察了。 (wǒ yào jiào jǐngchá le)
Police! 
警察! (jǐngchá!)
Stop! Thief! 
住手!小偷! (zhùshǒu! xiǎotōu!)
I need your help. 
我需要你的幫助。 (wǒ xūyào nǐde bāngzhù)
It's an emergency. 
這是緊急情況。 (zhèshì jǐnjí qíngkuàng)
I'm lost. 
我迷路了。 (wǒ mílù le)
I lost my bag. 
我丟了手提包。 (wǒ diūle shǒutíbāo)
I lost my wallet. 
我丟了錢包。 (wǒ diūle qiánbāo)
I'm sick. 
我生病了。 (wǒ shēngbìng le)
I've been injured. 
我受傷了。 (wǒ shòushāng le)
I need a doctor. 
我需要醫生。 (wǒ xūyào yīshēng)
Can I use your phone? 
我可以打個電話嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ dǎ ge diànhuà ma?)

Numbers

Chinese numbers are very regular. While Western numerals have become more common, the Chinese numerals shown below are still used, particularly in informal contexts like markets. The characters in parentheses are generally used in financial contexts, such as writing cheques and printing banknotes.

0 〇, 零 
líng
1 一 (壹) 
2 二 (貳) 
èr
3 三 (叄) 
sān
4 四 (肆) 
5 五 (伍) 
6 六 (陸) 
liù
7 七 (柒) 
8 八 (捌) 
9 九 (玖) 
jiǔ
10 十 (拾)
shí
11 十一 
shí-yī
12 十二 
shí-èr
13 十三 
shí-sān
14 十四 
shí-sì
15 十五 
shí-wǔ
16 十六 
shí-liù
17 十七 
shí-qī
18 十八 
shí-bā
19 十九 
shí-jiǔ
20 二十 
èr-shí
21 二十一 
èr-shí-yī
22 二十二 
èr-shí-èr
23 二十三 
èr-shí-sān
30 三十 
sān-shí
40 四十 
sì-shí
50 五十 
wǔ-shí
60 六十 
liù-shí
70 七十 
qī-shí
80 八十 
bā-shí
90 九十 
jiǔ-shí

For numbers above 100, any "gaps" must be filled in with 〇 líng, as eg. 一百一 yībǎiyī would otherwise be taken as shorthand for "110". A single unit of tens may be written and pronounced either 一十 yīshí or just 十 shí.

100 一百 (壹佰) 
yī-bǎi
101 一百〇一 
yī-bǎi-líng-yī
110 一百一十 
yī-bǎi-yī-shí
111 一百一十一 
yī-bǎi-yī-shí-yī
200 二百 
èr-bǎi
300 三百 
sān-bǎi
500 五百 
wǔ-bǎi
1000 一千 (壹仟)
yī-qiān
2000 二千 
èr-qiān

Numbers starting from 10,000 are grouped by in units of four digits, starting with 萬 wàn (ten thousand). "One million" in Chinese is thus "hundred ten thousands" (一百萬).

10,000 一萬 
yī-wàn
10,001 一萬〇一 
yī-wàn-líng-yī
10,002 一萬〇二 
yī-wàn-líng-èr
20,000 二萬 
èr-wàn
50,000 五萬 
wǔ-wàn
100,000 十萬 
shí-wàn
200,0000 二十萬 
èr-shí-wàn
1,000,000 一百萬 
yī-bǎi-wàn
10,000,000 一千萬 
yī-qiān-wàn
100,000,000 一億 
yīyì
1,000,000,000,000 一兆 
yīzhào
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
number measure word (路 lù or 號 hào etc.) _____ (火車 huǒchē, 公共汽車 gōnggòng qìchē, etc. Measure words are used in combination with a number to indicate the count of mass nouns.[1]
half 
半 bàn (...)
less 
少於 shǎoyū (...)
more 
多於 duōyū (...)

Time

now 
現在 xiànzài
later 
以後 yǐhòu or 稍後 shāohòu
before 
以前 yǐqián
morning 
早上 zǎoshàng
afternoon 
下午 xiàwǔ
evening 
傍晚 bàngwǎn
night 
晚上, wǎnshàng

Clock time

What time is it? 
現在幾點? Xiànzài jǐ diǎn?
It is nine in the morning. 
早上9點鐘。 Zǎoshàng jiǔ diǎn zhōng.
Three-thirty PM. 
下午3點半. Xiàwǔ sān diǎn bàn.

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
_____ 分鐘 fēnzhōng
_____ hour(s) 
_____ 小時 xiǎoshí
_____ day(s) 
_____ 天 tiān or _____ 日 rì
_____ week(s) 
_____ 星期 xīngqī
_____ month(s) 
_____ 月 yùe
_____ year(s) 
_____ 年 nián

Days

today 
今天 jīntiān
yesterday 
昨天 zuótiān
tomorrow 
明天 míngtiān
this week 
這個星期 zhège xīngqī
last week 
上個星期 shàngge xīngqī
next week 
下個星期 xiàge xīngqī

Weekdays in Chinese are easy: starting with 1 for Monday, just add the number after 星期 xīngqī.

Sunday 
星期天 xīngqītiān or 星期日 xīngqīrì
Monday 
星期一 xīngqīyī
Tuesday 
星期二 xīngqīèr
Wednesday 
星期三 xīngqīsān
Thursday 
星期四 xīngqīsì
Friday 
星期五 xīngqīwǔ
Saturday 
星期六 xīngqīliù

Months

Months in Chinese are also easy: starting with 1 for January, just add the number after 月 yuè.

January 
一月, yī yuè
February 
二月, èr yuè
March 
三月, sān yuè
April 
四月, sì yuè
May 
五月, wŭ yuè
June 
六月, liù yuè
July 
七月, qī yuè
August 
八月, bā yuè
September 
九月, jiŭ yuè
October 
十月, shí yuè
November 
十一月, shí yī yuè
December 
十二月, shí èr yuè

Tips: From January to December, you just need to use this pattern: number (1-12) + yuè

Writing Time and Date

Telling the date in a month in Chinese is also easy. Just say _____ 月 yùe _____ 日 rì for a month and a day.

January 1 
一月一日, yī yuè yī rì
January 2 
一月二日, yī yuè èr rì
January 3 
一月三日, yī yuè sān rì
December 30 
十二月三十日, shí èr yuè sān shí rì
December 31 
十二月三十一日, shí èr yuè sān shí yī rì

Colors

black 
黑色 hēi sè
white 
白色 bái sè
gray 
灰色 huī sè
red 
紅色 hóng sè
blue 
藍色 lán sè
yellow 
黃色 huáng sè
green 
綠色 lǜ sè
orange 
橙色 chéng sè
purple 
紫色 zǐ sè
brown 
褐色 he sè, 棕色 zōng sè,
Do you have it in another color?  
你們有沒有另外顏色? nǐmen yǒu méiyǒu lìngwài yánsè ?

Tips: sè means 'color', therefore, 'hóng sè' is 'red color'(literally). More common for brown and easier to remember is 'coffee color': 咖啡色 kā fēi sè

Transportation

Bus and Train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
去______的票多少錢 qù _____ de piào duō shǎo qián?
Do you go to... (the train station)? 
去不去... (火車站) qù bù qù... (huǒ chē zhàn)

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
怎麼去_____ zěnme qù _____?
...the train station? 
...火車站? ...huǒchē zhàn?
...the bus station? 
...汽車總站? ...qìchē zǒngzhàn?
...the airport? 
...飛機場? ...fēijī chǎng?
street 
街 jiē
road 
路 lù
Turn left. 
左邊轉彎 zuǒbiān zhuǎnwān
Turn right. 
右邊轉彎 yòubiān zhuǎnwān
left 
左邊 zuǒbiān
right 
右邊 yòubiān
straight ahead 
往前走 wǎngqián zǒu
north 
北 bĕi
south 
南 nán
east 
東 dōng
west 
西 xī

Taxi

Taxi 計程車 chū zū chē
Take me to _____, please. 
請開到_____。 qǐng kāidào _____。

Lodging

Common signs

入口 
Entrance
出口 
Exit
推 
Push
拉 
Pull
廁所 / 洗手間 
Toilet
男 
Men
女 
Women
禁止 
Forbidden
吸煙 
Smoking


Do you have any rooms available? 
你們有房間嗎? Nǐmen yǒu fángjiān ma?
Does the room come with... 
有沒有... Yǒu méiyǒu...
...bedsheets? 
...床單? ...chuángdān?
...a bathroom? 
...浴室? ...yùshì?
...a telephone? 
...電話? ...diànhuà?
...a TV? 
...電視? ...diànshì ?
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
我打算住_____夜。 Wǒ dǎsuàn zhù _____ yè.
Do you have a safe? 
你們有沒有保險箱? Nǐmen yǒu méiyǒu bǎoxiǎn xiāng?
Can you wake me at _____? 
請明天早上_____叫醒我。 Qǐng míngtiān zǎoshang _____ jiàoxǐng wǒ.
I want to check out. 
我現在要走。 Wǒ xiànzài yào zǒu.

Money

pay
付 fù
cash
現錢 xiàn qián or 現金 xiàn jīn
credit card
信用卡 xìn yòng kǎ

Eating

Can I look at the menu, please? 
請給我看看菜單 qĭng gĕi wŏ kànkan càidān?
I'm a vegetarian 
我吃素的 wŏ chī sù de
breakfast 
早飯 zǎofàn
lunch 
午飯 wǔfàn or 中飯 zhōngfàn
supper 
晚飯 wǎnfàn
beef 
牛肉 niúròu
pork
豬肉 zhūròu
mutton
羊肉 yángròu
chicken
雞 jī
fish
魚 yú
cheese 
乳酪 nǎilào
eggs 
雞蛋 jīdàn
bread 
麵包 miànbāo
noodles 
麵條 miàntiáo
fried rice
炒飯 chǎofàn
dumpling
餃子 jiǎozi
rice 
米飯 mĭfàn
coffee 
咖啡 kāfēi
black coffee: 黑咖啡 hēi kāfēi
milk
牛奶 niúnǎi
sugar
糖 táng
tea (drink
茶 cha
green tea
綠茶 lǜ chá
scented tea
花茶 huāchá
black tea
紅茶 hóngchá
juice 
水果 shuǐguǒ fruit; 汁 zhī juice
water 
水 shuĭ
natural mineral water
礦泉水 kuàngquán shuǐ
beer 
啤酒 píjiŭ
red/white wine 
紅/白 葡萄 酒 hóng/bái pŭtáo jiŭ
It was delicious. 
好吃極了。 (hǎochī jí le)
The check, please. 
請結帳。 (qǐng jiézhàng)

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
有沒有賣酒? (yǒu méiyǒu mài jiǔ?)
Is there table service? 
有沒有餐桌服務? (yǒu méiyǒu cānzhuō fúwù?)
A beer/two beers, please. 
請給我一杯/兩杯啤酒。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìbēi/liǎngbēi píjiǔ)
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
請給我一杯紅/白葡萄酒。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìbēi hóng/bái pútáojiǔ)
A pint, please. 
請給我一品脫。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìpǐntuō)
A bottle, please. 
請給我一瓶。 (qǐng gěi wǒ yìpíng)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
請給我_____和_____。 (qǐng gěi wǒ _____ hé _____)
whiskey 
威士卡 (wēishìjì)
vodka 
伏特加 (fútèjiā)
rum 
蘭姆酒 (lánmǔjiǔ)
water 
水 (shuǐ)
club soda 
蘇打水 (sūdǎshuǐ)
tonic water 
通甯水 (tōngníngshuǐ)
orange juice 
柳橙汁 (liǔchéngzhī)
Coke (soda
可樂 (kělè)
Do you have any bar snacks? 
有沒有吧臺點心? (yǒu méiyǒu bātái diǎnxīn?)
One more, please. 
請再給我一個。 (qǐng zài gěi wǒ yígè)
Another round, please. 
請再來一輪。 (qǐng zàilái yìlún)
When is closing time? 
幾點打烊? (jǐdiǎn dǎyáng?)
Where is the toilet? 
廁所在那裏 (cèsuǒ zài nàli?)

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
有沒有我的尺寸? (yǒu méiyǒu wǒde chǐcùn?)
How much is this? 
這個多少錢? (zhège duōshǎo qián?)
That's too expensive. 
太貴了。 (tài gùi le)
Would you take _____? 
_____元可以嗎? (_____ yuán kěyǐ ma?)
expensive 
貴 (gùi)
cheap 
便宜 (piányí)
I can't afford it. 
我帶的錢不夠。 (wǒ dài de qián búgòu)
I don't want it. 
我不想要。 (wǒ bùxiǎng yào)
You're cheating me. 
你欺騙我。 (nǐ qīpiàn wǒ) Use with caution!
I'm not interested. 
我沒有興趣。 (wǒ méiyǒu xìngqù)
OK, I'll take it. 
我要買這個。 (wǒ yào mǎi zhège)
Can I have a bag? 
請給我袋子。 (qǐng gěi wǒ dàizǐ)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
可以郵寄到海外嗎? (kěyǐ yóujì dào hǎiwài ma?)
I need... 
我要_____ (wǒ yào _____)
...toothpaste. 
牙膏 (yágāo)
...a toothbrush. 
牙刷 (yáshuā)
...tampons. 
衛生棉條 (wèishēng miántiáo)
...soap. 
香皂 (xiāngzào)
...shampoo. 
洗髮精 (xǐfǎjīng)
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
鎮痛劑 (zhèntòngjì)
...cold medicine. 
感冒藥 (gǎnmòuyào)
...stomach medicine. 
胃腸藥 (wèichángyào)
...a razor. 
剃刀 (tìdāo)
...an umbrella. 
雨傘 (yu3sǎn)
...sunblock lotion. 
防曬油 (fángshàiyóu)
...a postcard. 
明信片 (míngxìnpiàn)
...postage stamps. 
郵票 (yóupiào)
...batteries. 
電池 (diànchí)
...writing paper. 
紙 (zhǐ)
...a pen. 
筆 ()
...English-language books. 
英文書 (yīngwén shū)
...English-language magazines. 
英文雜誌 (yīngwén zázhì)
...an English-language newspaper. 
英文報紙 (yīngwén bàozhǐ)
...a Chinese-English dictionary. 
漢英字典 (hànyīng zìdiǎn)
...an English-Chinese dictionary. 
英漢字典 (yīnghàn zìdiǎn)

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
我想要租車。 (wǒ xiǎngyào zūchē)
Can I get insurance? 
我可以買保險嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ mǎi bǎoxiǎn ma?)
stop (on a street sign
停 (tíng)
one way 
單行道 (dānxíngdào)
yield 
讓路 (rànglù)
no parking 
禁止停車 (jìnzhǐ tíngchē)
speed limit 
速度限制 (sùdù xiànzhì)
gas (petrol) station 
加油站 (jiāyóuzhàn)
petrol 
汽油 (qìyóu)
diesel 
柴油 (cháiyóu)

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
我沒有作錯事。 (wǒ méiyǒu zuòcuò shì)
It was a misunderstanding. 
這是誤會。 (zhè shì wùhuì)
Where are you taking me? 
你帶我去哪里? (nǐ dài wǒ qù nǎlǐ?)
Am I under arrest? 
我被捕了嗎? (wǒ bèibǔle ma?)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
我是 美國/澳洲/英國/加拿大 公民。 (wǒ shì měiguó/àozhōu/yīngguó/jiānádà gōngmín)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
我希望跟 美國/澳洲/英國/加拿大 的 大使館/領事館 聯繫。 (wǒ xīwàng gēn měiguó/àozhōu/yīngguó/jiānádà de dàshǐguǎn/lǐngshìguǎn liánxì)
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
我希望跟律師聯繫。 (wǒ xīwàng gēn lǜshī liánxì)
Can I just pay a fine now? 
我可以只付罰款嗎? (wǒ kěyǐ zhǐ fù fákuǎn ma?)

Telephone and the Internet

Telephone and Internet

In most Chinese cities, there are no telephone booths. Instead, small street shops have telephones which can usually be used for national calls. Look for signs like this:

公用電話 Public Telephone

Most cafes are cheaper than in hotels. Many mid-range hotels and chains now offer free wireless or plug-in internet. Those cafes are quite hidden sometimes and you should look for the following Chinese characters:

網咖 Internet Cafe


Can I make international calls here? 
可以打國際電話嗎? (kěyǐ dǎ guójì diànhuà ma?)
How much is it to America/Australia/Britain/Canada? 
到 美國/澳洲/英國/加拿大 是多少錢? (dào měiguó/àozhōu/yīngguó/jiānádà shì duōshǎo qián?)
Where can I find an Internet cafe? 
那裏有網吧? (nǎlǐ yǒu wǎng ba?)
How much is it per hour? 
一小時是多少錢? (yī xiǎoshí shì duōshǎo qián?)

Learning more

Chinese is the most spoken language of the world, with more speakers than the next two, Hindi and Spanish, combined. However, there are still few learners of Chinese in the Western world and you might get weird looks if you say you want to start learning it: "Instead of anger of frustration, the student should instead feel a smug superiority of being ahead of everyone else!"

The first step is to learn to read the romanization with tones. Avoid any phrasebook that does not mark the tones.

For simple sentences, one may be able to get away without tones, but this can cause confusion in more complex situations, so tones are very important. A classic example is the difference between the Chinese characters for "four" (四, sì) and "death" (死, sǐ), different only by tones. A good idea for practicing is to make Chinese friends online since millions of young people in China also look for somebody to practice English with.

A good idea for practicing is to make Chinese friends online since millions of young people in China also look for somebody to practice English with.



This is a guide phrasebook. It covers all the major topics for traveling without resorting to English. But please Plunge forward and help us make it a star!

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