Survival Language Cheat Sheet

10 or so phrases you should know for 9 common situations

A lot of people travel to places where they can't speak the language. Given that Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn, even the locals don't expect travelers to know any Chinese. But because a lot of the most "authentic" experiences will take you to places where people know no English, here's a survival language starter pack.

A few things to note: The main language in Taiwan, known as "guo yĆ¼" (literally "national language"), is Mandarin. It's the same as Mandarin spoken in China, but with a different accent and slightly different vocabulary (similar to American vs British English). When it comes to the written language, Taiwan uses traditional Chinese rather than simplified. A lot of people also speak Taiwanese, which is a dialect that usually isn't written (but uses the same characters when it is). If you travel to more rural places, you'll hear more Taiwanese. But even in Taipei, some words or phrases are just more commonly said in Taiwanese.

HOW TO USE THE GUIDE

10ish words and phrases, 9 situational categories. There's the Chinese characters, followed by pinyin and the English translation. The pinyin does not include the tones (most people who didn't grow up as a tonal language speaker can't really differentiate anyways, and Taiwanese people are good at guessing what you mean, so it doesn't REALLLYY matter - this is hopefully a survival guide that requires little studying!). If you are not familiar with pinyin, check out this guide to figure out pronunciation, etc. It's a flawed system and a lot of the letters are not pronounced in the way you'd think they'd be pronounced unfortunately.

Keep scrolling to get to the language sections, or click on a category below to jump to that section.



FOR GREETING & MEETING

你好(嗎?) ni hao (ma) Hello / How are you?
早安/早 zhao an / zhao Good morning
晚安 wan an Good night
謝謝 xie xie Thank you
不客氣 bu ke qi You're welcome
再見 zhai jian Goodbye
歡迎 huan yin Welcome
恭喜 gong xi Congratulations
祝你好運 zhu ni hao yun Good luck
生日快樂 sheng ri kuai le Happy birthday


FOR ASKING & ANSWERING

你會說英文嗎? Ni huei shuo ying wen ma Do you speak English?
(我)聽不懂(中文/國語/台語) (wo) ting bu dong (zhong wen / guo yu / tai yu) (I) don't understand (Chinese/Chinese/Taiwanese)
還好嗎? hai hao ma? Are you ok? / All good?
沒事 mei shi Nothing's wrong / nothing / all good
不好意思 bu hao yi shi Pardon me / excuse me / sorry
請問。。。 ching wen Use when asking a question, like "may I ask"
(在)哪裡?在(這/那)裡 (zhai) na li / (zhai) zhe li Where (is it)? (It is) here
對不起 dui bu qi Sorry
沒關係 mei guan xi It's ok / that's ok
(不)可以/行 (bu) ke yi/xing Can / May (used like yes or no when talking about if something is acceptable or doable or allowed)
(不)好 (bu) hao Good / not good (used like yes or no when talking about if something is ok)
(不)知道 (bu) zhi dao (don't) know


JUST THE NECESSITIES

你/我/他 ni/wo/ta you/me (or I)/him or her (or he or she)
一點/多/少 yi dian/duo/shao a little/a lot (or more)/less
大/中/小 da/zhong/xiao big (or large)/medium (or middle)/small (or little)
上/下 shang/xia up (or top)/down (or bottom)
前/後 qian/hou front (or before)/back (or after)
很/太 hen/tai very/too
ren person/human
(沒)有 (mei) you (don't) have
(不)要 (bu) yao (don't) want
(不)是 (bu) shi is (not)


TALKING WEATHER

太陽 tai yang sun
(下)雨 (xia) yu rain (raining)
leng cold
re hot
feng wind
陰天 ying tian overcast/cloudy
天氣 tian qi weather
氣象 qi xiang weather forecast
(溫)度 (wen) du degree (temperature)
颱風 tai feng typhoon


FOR EXPLORING [PLACES]

旅館/飯店 lu guan/fan dian hotel
房子/家/套房 fang zi/jia/tao fang house/home/apartment
餐廳 can ting restaurant
miao temple
dian store
百貨公司 bai huo gong si department store
超市/大賣場/菜市場 chao si/da mai chang/cai shi chang grocery store/supermarket/traditional market
夜市 ye shi night market
公園 gong yuan park
地點 di dian location/point of interest


FOR BUYING STUFF

多少(錢) duo shao (qian) how much (money)
貴/便宜 gui/pian yi expensive / cheap
十 百 千 shi bai qian ten, hundred, thousand
yuan dollars/money
可以便宜一點嗎? ke yi pian yi yi dian ma? Can you go any cheaper?
這個 / 那個 zhe ge / na ge this / that
有沒有 you mei you is there/do [you] have
不用 bu yong no (or no need)
售信用卡嗎? shou xin yong ka ma? do you take credit card?
現金 xian jin cash


FOR ORDERING & EATING

這裡什麼最有名? zhe le shen me zui you ming? what's the most popular/famous?
這是什麼? zhe shi shen me? what is this?
你會餓嗎? 我餓了/我飽了 ni hui e ma? wo e le/wo bao le Are you hungry? I'm hungry/I'm full
我想吃。。。 wo xiang chi... I want to eat...
自助餐/產廳/路邊攤/美食街 zi zhu can / chan ting / lu bian tan / mei shi jie buffet / restaurant / street vendor / food court
冰, 冷, 熱 / 燙 / 溫 bing, leng, re / tang / wen cold, cool, hot, burning hot, warm
杯子/吸管/碗/盤/筷子/叉子/湯匙 bei zhi/xi guan/wan/pan/kuai zhi/cha zhi/tang chi cup/straw/bowl/plate/chopsticks/fork/spoon
菜 / 套餐 cai / tao can dish / combo
素/(雞,豬,牛,羊)肉/海鮮/魚 shu / (ji,zhu,niu,yang) rou/hai xian/yu vegetarian / chicken, pork, beef, lamb / seafood / fish
飯/麵 fan / mian rice / noodle
飲料/水/茶/咖啡/酒 yin liao/shui/cha/ka fei/jiu beverage/water/tea/coffee/alcohol
味道: 甜/鹹/辣/苦/酸 wei dao: tian/xian/la/ku/shuan flavor/taste: sweet/salty (or savory)/spicy/bitter/sour


FOR THE ROAD [ORIENTING]

路/迷路 lu/mi lu road / lost
東西南北 dong xi nan bei east west south north
遠 / 近 yuan / jin far / close
車/計程車 che / ji cheng che car / taxi
公車(站) gong che (zhan) bus (station)
捷運(站) jie yun (zhan) metro (station)
火車/高鐵(站) huo che / gao tie (zhan) train / high speed rail (station)
飛機/機場 fei ji / ji chang plane / airport
停車(場) ting che (chang) parking (lot)
快/慢/來不及 kuai/man/lai bu ji fast/slow/too late


IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

幫幫我 / 救命 bang bang wo / jiu ming help me / save me
拜託 bai tuo help
警察 jing cha police
救護車 jiu hu che ambulance
醫院/醫生 yi yuan / yi sheng hospital / doctor
受傷 shou shang (get) hurt/injured
ji emergency
(生)病 (sheng) bing (get) sick
小心(不小心) xiao xin (bu xiao xin) careful (accidentally)
tong hurt

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