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Easy Phrases to Learn Before Traveling Anywhere

Learning a Language Can Be Simple

The best investment decision I ever made while living in China was getting a language teacher. It took me a whole year living in China before I decide to take the plunge into seriously learning the language. Once I started my lessons, I started to understand random conversations overheard in the street, at work, and in the media much more! However, it took me way too long to realize the value and impact that a language teacher would have on my life here.


So you may ask yourself, how did I get by during my first year living in China? I often wasn’t lucky enough to encounter locals who spoke English and started learning Chinese mainly through listening. Below is a list of the phrases I used the majority of the time to communicate with people who didn’t understand me when I speaking English.


The ideal scenario is that you take some online courses with a language teacher before traveling anywhere. Although, when you are pressed for time these phrases are the best to use and not just for China.


Greetings & Goodbyes

Hello (Nǐ hǎo 你好)

Good morning (Zǎoshang hǎo 早上好), good afternoon (Xiàwǔ hǎo 下午好), and good evening (Wǎnshàng hǎo 晚上好)

Goodbye (Zàijiàn 再见)


When starting any perceivably long interaction

Sorry, my [insert language] is not good.  (Duìbùqǐ, wǒ de zhōngwén bù hǎo 对不起,我的中文不好)

I am American.  (Wǒ shì měiguó rén 我是美国人)


Finding the essentials

Where is the [insert location/object]?  (zài nǎlǐ 在哪里)

Where is the bathroom?  (Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ 厕所在哪里)

Where is the train?  (Dìtiě zài nǎlǐ 地铁在哪里)


When you’re out shopping

How much is it?  (Duōshǎo qián多少钱)

What is this?  (Zhè shì shénme这是什么)

I don’t need. (wǒ bú yòng 我不用)

I don’t want. (Wǒ búyào 我不要)

Thank you  (Xièxiè 谢谢)


When you want to learn or clarify

How do you say [point to object]?  (Nǐ zěnme shuō你怎么说)

What does [word] mean? (shì shénme yìsi 是什么意思)

I don’t understand. (wǒ tīng bù dǒng 我听不懂)


The last three sentences are the most important phrases and the main ones to remember. If you can learn these three sentences during your stay in a country, you can get a contextual understanding of most conversations within a month’s time.


I would recommend learning these phrases as locals tend to be more open and kinder to foreigners who are trying to learn a language. Additionally, the best way to learn about a culture is by learning the language.

If you want to see an extended version of this article on Youtube (and me trying my best not stumble on both Chinese and Spanish) click on the video below.

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