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 covers the most useful phrases that will help you speak Chinese in Taiwan like a boss!
Have you ever been lost in translation? If you love travelling 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 your entire trip.
When travelling to Taiwan, you might be worried about exactly the same thing. Especially as the official language here is Chinese. And, as you might already know, Chinese is also one of the most difficult languages to master. Being fluent in Chinese takes dedicated practice – which might take months, if not years to master. For this reason, we’ve compiled this handy guide which will help you speak Chinese in Taiwan!
Why it’s important to master a few phrases for your visit here
Even though, you can easily get by without any Chinese skills in the capital city Taipei or the artsy hub of Kaohsiung, 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 seeing that the locals really appreciate it. Or should I rather say…mostly they just laugh at our bad pronunciation…but at least we try! And that’s what really maters!
Generally, you’ll find that most locals can speak some basic English in the more touristy hubs and at most tourist attractions. But, these numbers do however dwindle greatly when you are exploring outside the main tourist areas and bigger cities.
So, if you are planning 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 in Taiwan here in this guide! So why not make the most of your trip by mastering a few of these useful phrases! Learn all the basics from greetings to numbers and how to order food, getting around and even how to shop, here!
With these handy phrases you too can speak Chinese in Taiwan like a pro! And who knows…you might even gain some street cred!
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Speak Chinese in Taiwan like a boss!
Taiwanese people are incredible friendly and enjoy interacting with foreigners. Truth be told, they’ll go out of their way to help you. Whether they can speak English or not. So, remember; always be polite and smile. Here are the most basic phrases that every traveler needs to know when wanting to speak Chinese in 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. Here is a list of the most essential greetings to master if you want to speak Chinese in Taiwan…
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
When traveling, numbers play a pretty big part – from shopping and listening for a bus number to even trying to phone someone. 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 you will quickly realise just how easy this makes travelling around the island. With subways (known here as the MRT) in both Taipei and Kaohsiung, travelling 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.
As in other parts of the world, taxis can be flagged down. But, if you are in a rush, just pop into any convenience store and ask an employee to phone a taxi for you. Or if you are more comfortable using Uber – simply order a cab through their mobile app. Do however note that Uber is only available in Taipei City.
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
In addition, 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. The ticketing machines at stations 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 where to go in Taiwan? Pop over to our Taiwan section to find out what to see, eat and do.
Eating and ordering food
Taiwan boasts with some of the best street food markets in Asia, impressing culinary experts and foodies from all around the globe. In most cases, eating and ordering food is easy at the main tourist spots, but most restaurants only have Chinese menus. Western style restaurants generally have English menus and you will even find some restaurants with picture menus. So, if you want to order from one of these, simple point to the picture and say (or show) how many you want.
For the more adventurous travellers out there, 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 variety of weird and wonderful treats. Most noteworthy being stinky tofu (chòu dòufu, 臭豆腐) and the century egg (pídàn, 皮蛋). But, these might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Fussy eaters, do no 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!
If you however prefer to stick to safer options or you simply aren’t much of an adventurous eater, 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 travellers 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!
Oh and one last thing to consider…
Do you 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.
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Grab your Taiwan Lonely Planet here…
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This post was updated on February 29, 2019.