How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan
Looking to pick up a few basic Chinese phrases before your trip to Taiwan? If so, you’re in luck! This guide sets out all the travel phrases you need in order to speak Chinese in Taiwan like an absolute boss!
Have you ever been lost in translation? If you love traveling as much as we do, you already know that nothing can complicate a perfectly well-planned trip like language barriers! It might be exciting and even bearable at first, but when the frustration starts to sink in, chances are language barriers could ruin a perfectly well-planned trip.
When traveling to Taiwan, you might be worried about exactly the same thing, since the official language here is Chinese and not English. To complicate things (as you might already know), Chinese is also one of the most difficult languages to master and being fluent in Chinese takes dedicated practice, which could take months, if not years to master. For this reason, we’ve compiled this quick and handy guide to help you speak Chinese in Taiwan!
Why you shoul master a few phrases for your visit here
You can easily get by without any Chinese skills in the capital city Taipei or the artsy hub of Kaohsiung, but learning a few phrases in the local language can really go a long way. In fact, we always find it so much more rewarding – especially since the locals really appreciate it. Well…mostly they just laugh at our bad pronunciation…but at least we try! And that’s what really matters!
In general, most locals can speak some basic English in the more touristy hubs or at the major tourist attractions across the island. But sadly, these numbers dwindle greatly once you travel outside the bigger cities. Therefore, if you plan to go to more remote areas or simply want to get more out of your Taiwan trip, have a look at these phrases that will help you speak Chinese in Taiwan in no time!
We set out all the essential Chinese phrases you need to make the most of your trip to Taiwan. Master useful phrases and learn all the basics from greetings and numbers to ordering food, getting around and even how to shop. With these handy phrases, you too can speak Chinese in Taiwan like a pro!
In a rush? Pin these handy Chinese travel phrases for later.
Speak Chinese in Taiwan like a boss!
One of the best things about Taiwan is the people – Taiwanese people are incredibly friendly and love interacting with foreigners. Truth be told, they’ll go out of their way to help you, whether they can speak English or not. So the best tip I can give you – always be polite and friendly.
Here are the most basic phrases that every traveler needs to know when traveling Taiwan…
Yes – Shì(是)
No – Bùshì (不是)
Thank you – Xièxiè (謝謝)
Please – Qǐngwèn (請問)
I’m sorry – Duìbùqǐ (對不起)
Excuse me – Bù hǎoyìsi (不好意思)
Can you help me? – Nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ ma? (你可以幫我嗎?)
Help, I’m lost! – Bāngzhù, wǒ mílùle! (幫助，我迷路了!)
Can you speak English? – Nǐ huì shuō Yīngwén ma? (你會說英文嗎?)
Where’s the toilet? – Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ? (廁所在哪裡?)
Greeting in Chinese
Being polite, not only means knowing your please and thank you’s it also means greeting people before you start communicating with them. Here are a few essential greetings to master if you want to make a good impression on the locals.
Hello – Nǐ hǎo (你好)
Good morning – Zǎo ān (早安)
Good evening – Wǎnshang hǎo (晚上好)
Goodbye – Zàijian (再見)
Good night – Wǎn’an (晚安)
How are you? – Nǐ hǎo ma? (您好嗎?)
Know your Chinese Numbers
Numbers play an important role in our everyday lives. And just so, they will undoubtedly be necessary whilst traveling in Taiwan. Whether you’re shopping, listening for a bus number or perhaps even trying to phone someone – mastering these few basic numbers below are sure to go a long way.
Here’s a quick list to kick-start learning the basic numbers in Chinese…
0 – líng (0)
1 – yī (一)
2 – èr (二)
3 – sān (三)
4 – sì (四)
5 – wǔ (五)
6 – liù (六)
7 – qī (七)
8 – bā (八)
9 – jiǔ (九)
10 – shí (十)
100 – bǎi (百)
1,000 – qiān (千)
10,000 – wàn (萬)
Taiwan has a very impressive transportation network. And once here, you will realize just how easy this makes traveling around the island. With subways (known here as the MRT) in both Taipei and Kaohsiung, traveling within the city couldn’t be easier.
There are also various trains, buses and of course, the High Speed Rail to help you get from A to Z quickly and effortlessly. The High Speed Rail (or bullet train) runs along the western coast of Taiwan and gets you from north to south in less than 2 hours.
Similar to other major cities around the world, taxis can be flagged down on the street. However, if you are in a rush, you can also just pop into any convenience store and ask one of the staff members to phone a taxi for you. Uber is very popular here too, but they only operate in Taipei.
By the way…if it’s your first time here, check out this guide which covers everything you need to know for your first visit!
How to buy tickets
You can buy tickets for most tourist buses, trains and the high-speed rail either online or at one of the ticketing machines/kiosks at stations. These machines do have options in English and luckily, most staff members can speak English too. So, don’t worry too much.
Oh and if you can read Chinese, you could even grab them from the Ibon machines located in any of the 7-11’s across the island.
Useful Transport Phrases to master
I want to go to… – Wǒ xiǎng qù… (我想去…)
One ticket to… – Yī zhāng piào qù… (一張票去…)
Two tickets to… – Liǎng zhāng piào qù… (兩張票去…)
Can you help me? – Nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ ma? (你可以幫我嗎?)
Do you have a map? – Nǐ yǒu dìtú ma? (你有地圖嗎?)
Can you phone a taxi for me, please? – Qǐngwèn nǐ kěyǐ bāng wǒ jiào jìchéngchē ma? (請問你可以幫我叫計程車嗎?)
Wondering what should be on your Taiwan itinerary? Pop over to our Taiwan section to find out what not to miss on the island!
Eating and ordering food
Taiwan is home to some of the best street food markets in Asia and has become a real go-to foodie destination. If you are planning on eating at the night markets, ordering food will be pretty straightforward as most shopkeepers can speak some basic English.
Grabbing food at popular tourist spots is pretty easy too, as most of the restaurants here are likely to have English menus. (Although they aren’t always translated accurately, which could be an adventure in itself). Most Western-style restaurants generally have English menus too and you will even find some restaurants with picture menus.
However, most normal restaurants only have Chinese menus. And although it does complicate things a tad more, I highly recommend that you pop into one of the local stores to get a real taste of authentic Taiwan. The easiest way to find out what is on offer at a specific store is to have a quick stroll through the shop. This way you can see what the customers are eating. Then if you are ready to order, simply point to that person’s dish.
Try these useful phrases below…
Useful Phrases for Dining / Ordering
Do you have an English menu? – Nǐ yǒu yīngwén càidān ma? (你有英文菜單嗎?)
What do you recommend? – Nǐ yǒu shé me jiànyì? (你有什麼建議?)
I’m vegetarian – Wǒ shì sùshí zhě (我是素食者)
Spicy – Là (辣)
A little spicy – Yīdiǎn là (一點辣)
I don’t want spicy – Wǒ bùyào jiā là (我不要加辣）
How much is it? – Zhège duōshǎo qián? (這個多少錢?)
Taiwan has a variety of weird and wonderful treats – most noteworthy being stinky tofu (chòu dòufu, 臭豆腐) and the century egg (pídàn, 皮蛋). They might sound interesting, but bear in mind that these are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea!
Fussy eaters, do not fret. Luckily, there are a bunch of other more palatable options to choose from – such as beef noodles, steamed buns and xiao long bao. Not to mention, bubble milk tea – a must on your visit here! In fact, if there is one Taiwanese snack you shouldn’t leave without trying, it’s undoubtedly bubble milk tea!
For those of you who prefer sticking to safer options or simply aren’t adventurous eaters, look out for these basic characters to make your eating experience easier.
Beef – Niúròu (牛肉)
Chicken – Jī ròu (雞肉)
Pork – Zhūròu (豬肉)
Duck – Yā ròu (鴨肉)
Lamb – Yángròu (羊肉)
Seafood – Hǎixiān (海鮮)
Fish – Yú ròu(魚肉)
Noodles – Miàn (麵條)
Rice – Fàn (白飯)
Dumplings – Shuǐjiǎo (水餃)
Vegetables – Shūcài (蔬菜)
Beer – Píjiǔ (啤酒)
Water – Shuǐ (水)
Coffee – Kāfēi (咖啡)
Tea – Chá (茶)
Coke – Kělè (可樂)
Bubble Milk Tea – Zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶)
Make shopping a breeze
One activity we particularly enjoy when travelling is shopping. And, just like the rest of Asia, there are tons of amazing shopping spots to discover in Taiwan. Whether you are buying souvenirs, browsing the streets for Chinese trinkets or going shopping in one of the many high-end department stores, you are bound to find something you love.
Master these phrases here to make your shopping experience a breeze…
Useful Phrases for Shopping
How much is it? – Zhège duōshǎo qián? (這個多少錢?)
It is too expensive. – Tā tài guìle (它太貴了)
Do you have anything cheaper? – Nǐ yǒu gèng piányí de dōngxī ma? (你有更便宜的東西嗎)
Do you have this in another color? – Nǐ yǒu lìng yīzhǒng yánsè ma? (你有另一種顏色嗎?)
Do you have this in a bigger/ smaller size? – Nǐ yǒu bǐ zhège gèng dà/gèng xiǎo de chǐcùn ma? (你有比這個更大/更小的尺寸嗎?)
Where’s the ATM? – ATM zài nǎlǐ? (ATM在哪裡?)
Can I pay with a card? – Wǒ kěyǐ yòng kǎ fù qián ma? (我可以用卡付錢嗎?)
Speak Chinese in Taiwan like a local
Want to gain some street cred on your trip? Master these words and you’ll surely make any local’s day! Not to mention, speak Chinese in Taiwan like an absolute boss!
Nice to meet you! – Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ (很高興認識你)
See you tomorrow!- Míngtian jiàn (明天見)
I’m hungry – Wǒ èle (我餓了)
I’m full – Wǒ bǎole (我飽了)
Can I have a beer, please? – Qǐng gěi wǒ yībēi píjiǔ? (請給我一杯啤酒？)
I’m thirsty – Wǒ kǒu kě (我口渴)
Can I buy you a beer? – Wǒ kěyǐ qǐng nǐ hē bēi píjiǔ ma? (我可以請你喝杯啤酒嗎？)
Cheers – Gānbēi (乾杯)
See you later! – Huítóu jiàn (回頭見!)
Oh my god! – Wǒ de tiān a (我的天啊)
I like you – Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ (我喜歡你)
My Chinese is not good – Wǒ de zhōngwén bù hǎo (我的中文不好)
I don’t understand – Wǒ tīng bù dǒng (我聽不懂)
I’m just looking – Wǒ zhǐshì kàn kàn (我只是看看)
Have you visited Taiwan yet? And what tips or useful phrases do you have to help travelers speak Chinese in Taiwan? Drop your comments below.
We hope this post will help you get by on your travels and more importantly, help you master a few phrases so that you too can speak Chinese in Taiwan!
But, just in case…if all else fails, you can always put your charading skills to the test. And, remember, there’s always Google Translate!
Need a pre-paid sim for Taiwan? Check out this handy guide for tips and tricks on how to stay connected on your travels here.
Grab your Taiwan Lonely Planet here…
Ready to speak Chinese in Taiwan like a PRO? Pin it now for easy reference.
This post was updated on February 29, 2019.