60 Essential Chinese Phrases To Learn as a College Student

Reference & EducationCollege & University

  • Author Jessica Fender
  • Published July 19, 2021
  • Word count 1,124

You may be spending a semester in China; you may have decided to pursue a full degree in one of the many exceptional universities. In either event, you are a soon-to-be non-Chinese speaking college student. And even though many courses/programs are taught in English, you still have to live in a foreign country and navigate through local communities. And why wouldn’t you want to? After all, foreign study is not just about academics. It is about immersing yourself into a cultural experience that will change you forever.

Before embarking on this adventure, do yourself a favor and learn some key phrases that will allow you initial “navigation.” Get with a Chinese student at home or go online to learn them, especially the pronunciations.

Pinyin is a simple system for pronunciation of Chinese phrases, using romanized spelling, with four tone or accent marks above vowels to show how your voice should rise and fall or remain neutral. There are plenty of apps for Pinyin if you want to “go it alone,” but learning common phrases will require that you also learn the tonal requirements.

The Tonal Requirements

There are four and these tonal marks show whether your voice should rise, fall, remain neutral, or provide some fullness. When you study your phrases, keep these in mind and listen carefully as words are pronounced, so you don’t confuse native Chinese when speaking to them.

On to the Phrases

For organizational purposes, these phrases are categorized, depending upon what you want to say or do.


You can just say hello, or you can respond to others who are greeting you.

  1. Nihao = Hello. Pronounced Nee haow

  2. Nihao ma = How are you? Pronounced Nee haow ma

  3. Hun haow = Good. Pronounced Hun haow

  4. Hai hao = Pretty good. Pronounced Hi haow

  5. Bu tai hao = not so good. Pronounced Boo tye haow

  6. Dzow shung haow = Good morning. Pronounced Dzow shung haow

  7. Wun Shung haow = Good evening. Pronounced Wun shung haow

  8. Wan’an = good night. Pronounced Wun-un

Simple Introduction Phrases

If you want to go beyond a simple greeting and let someone know more about you and answer some basic questions you may be asked.

  1. Ni jiao shenme mingzi = What’s your name? Pronounced Nee jyaow shun muh ming dzrr

  2. Wor jyaow = My name is. Pronounced Wor jyaow

  3. Nee dwor da = how old are you? Pronounced nee dwor da

  4. Wo sanshi sui = I’m 30 years old. Pronounced Wor sun shrr sway. (Note: for more on numbers, check this site.)

  5. Ni shin a guo ren = What country are you from? Pronounced Nee shrr na gwor run. (Note: to answer this one, check out your country’s name in Chinese.)

  6. Hen gaoxing renshini = Nice to meet you. Pronounced Hun gaow shing runshrr nee.

Seven Phrases To Be Polite

You don’t want to be the “ugly foreigner.” So, it is important to learn some basic phrases of courtesy. Here are the most common.

  1. Xiexie = thank you. Pronounced shyeah shyeah

  2. Feichang ganxie = Thank you so much. Pronounced Fay chung gun shyeah

  3. Bu yong xie = you’re welcome. Pronounced Boo yong shyeah

  4. Bu haoyisi = Excuse me or sorry. Pronounced Boo haow yee srr.

  5. Mafan ni le = Sorry to bother you. Pronounced Ma fun nee luh

  6. Mei Wenti = no problem. Pronounced may wuntee

  7. Hao de = OK. Pronounced Haow duh.

When You Do or Do Not Understand

It’s easy to just nod your head and pretend that you understand what someone is saying to you when you really don’t understand at all. Here are some phrases that will help you be honest about that.

  1. Wo tingdedong = I understand. Pronunciation Wor teeng duh dong

  2. Wo tingbudong = I don’t understand. Pronunciation Wor teeng boo dong

  3. Ni hui shuo yingwen ma = Do you speak English? Pronunciation Nee hway shwor yeeng wun ma

  4. Wo bu hui shuo zhongwen = I don’t speak Chinese. Pronunciation Wor boo hway shwor jong wun

  5. Keyi shuo de man yidian ma? = Could you speak more slowly? Pronunciation Kuh yee shwor duh mun yee dyen ma?

  6. ___shenme yisi? = What does ___ mean? Pronunciation ___ shun muh yee srr

  7. ____ zenme shuo? = How do you say ___? Pronunciation ___ dzun muh shwor

Asking for Directions

Since Google services don’t work in China, so some phones will definitely not give directions. You can use the traditional way of asking someone:

  1. Bu Haoyisi, keyi wen ge u ma? = Excuse me, could I ask for some direction? Pronunciation Boo haow yee srr, kuh yee wun guh loo ma?

  2. Dao ___ zenme zou? = Hod o you get to the ___? Pronunciation Daow ___ zun muh dzoh?

  3. ___ zai nar? = Where is the ___? Pronunciation dzye narr.

  4. ___ Wo yao qu = I want to go to ___. Pronunciation Wor yaow choo

Public Transport

Most cities have bus, train and taxi transport – here are some essential phrases:

  1. Yi zhang dao eijing de piao = one ticket to Beijing. Pronunciation Yee jungdaow bay jeeng duhpyaow.

  2. Liang zhang piao = two tickets. Pronunciation Lyung jung pyaow

  3. Lai hui = return/round trip. Pronunciation Lye Hway

  4. Dan cheng = one way. Pronunciation Dun chung

  5. Jichang = airport. Pronunciation Jee chung

  6. Huochezhan = train station. Pronunciation Hwor chuh jun

  7. Ditiezhan = Metro or subway. Pronunciation Dee tyeah jun

  8. Gongjiaochezhan = bus stop or station. Pronunciation Gong jyaow chuh jun

  9. Chuzuche = Taxi. Pronunciation Choo zoo chuh

Restaurant Chat

Restaurant talk is informal and usually is just a word or two or very short phrases:

  1. Yiwei = table for one. Pronunciation Jee way

  2. Liangwei = two people. Pronunciation Lyung way

  3. Wo xiang kan yixia caidan = Could I see the menu? Pronunciation Wor shyung kun yee shyah tsay dun.

  4. Dian cai = I’m ready to order. Pronunciation Dyen tsye

  5. Fuwuyuan = Waiter! Pronunciation foo woo yoo-an

  6. Maidan = bill, please. Pronunciation Mye dun

When You Go Shopping (and want to bargain)

  1. Zhege = This one. Pronunciation Jay guh

  2. Nage = That one. Pronunciation Nay guh

  3. Duoshao qian? = How much is it? Pronunciation Dwor shaow chyen

  4. Tye gway luh = Too expensive. Pronunciation Tye gway luh

  5. Pianyi yidianr! = cheaper price. Pronunciation Pyen yee yee dyer

  6. Keyi shuaka ma? = Can I use a card? Pronunciation Kuh-yee shak-a ma?

  7. Wo kan yixia = I’m just looking. Pronunciation Wor kun yee shyah

When There Are Problems

  1. Keyi bang ge mang ma? = Can you help me? Pronunciation Kuh yee bung guh mung ma

  2. Wo milu le = I’m lost. Pronunciation Wor mee loo luh

  3. Wo de qianbaodiu le = My wallet is missing. Pronunciation Wor duh chyen baow dyoh luh

  4. Wo shengbing le = I’m sick. Pronunciation Wor shung beeng luh

  5. Wo shoushange le = I’m hurt. Pronunciation Wor shoh shung luh

  6. Wo yao qu yiyuan = I need to go to the hospital. Pronunciation Wor yaow choo yee yoo-an

These 60

So here you have 60 phrases that should get you navigating in local Chinese communities. Obviously, you will pick up a lot more as you go along. Happy learning!

Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger at Bestwritingadvisor (https://bestwritingadvisor.com), an aggregator for useful college resources and websites. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun.

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