A wanderlust guide

How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan

How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan

Essential phrases for travelers

Have you ever been lost in translation? If you love traveling as much as we do, you already know: 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.

In Taiwan, the official language is Chinese. Most people can speak some basic English, but these numbers dwindle greatly when you are exploring outside the main tourist spots. Here, Chinese trumps. Regrettably, 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. For this reason, we’ve compiled this handy guide; How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan.

 

You will find all the basic Chinese phrases to help you make the most of your trip in this guide. Whether you fancy world-class trekking experiences hiking Taiwan’s high mountains, cycling down the scenic East coast, snorkeling in the warm waters of the South or soaking up the rich culture and cuisine. Our guide has you covered. Who knows…you might even gain some street cred!

 

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Taiwan travel

Taiwan Travel

Photo by Andrew Haimerl on Unsplash

Chinese: The Basics

 

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 in Taiwan should know:

 

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 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, listening for a bus number or even trying to phone someone. Here’s a quick list to kick-start learning the basic Chinese numbers:

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)

Getting around

 

Taiwan travel mrt
Photo by diGital Sennin on Unsplash

 

Taiwan has a very impressive transportation network. This makes traveling around the island super easy. 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 (bullet train), runs along the western coast of Taiwan and gets you from north to south in less than 2 hours.

You can purchase most tickets for tourist buses, trains and the high speed rail either online or at one of the ticketing machines/kiosks at stations. Ticketing machines have options in English and most personnel can speak English too. So, don’t worry too much.

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.

 

Here are the basics to help you get around:

 

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 in Chinese

 

Photo by H E N G S T R E A M on Unsplash

 

Taiwan boasts with some of the best street food markets in Asia, impressing culinary experts and foodies from all around the globe. Eating and ordering food is generally easy in the main tourist spots, but most restaurants only have Chinese menus. Western style restaurants are bound to have an English menu and you will even find some restaurants with picture menus. 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 travelers out there, why not give these phrases a go?

 

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, stinky tofu and the century egg. But, these might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Fussy eaters, do no fret. There is plenty to choose from; beef noodles, steamed buns, xiao long bao and don’t forget, bubble milk tea.

If you are not much of an adventurous eater, look out for these basic characters to make your eating experience easier.

 

Food:

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)

Drinks:

Beer – Píjiǔ (啤酒)
Water – Shuǐ (水)
Coffee – Kāfēi (咖啡)
Tea – Chá (茶)
Coke – Kělè (可樂)

Chinese phrases to make shopping a breeze

 

 

Whether you are buying souvenirs, browsing the streets or going shopping in one of the many high-end department stores, these phrases are bound to come in handy:

 

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 like a local

 

Want to gain some street cred on your trip? Master these words and you’ll surely make any local’s day.

 

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)

 

 

If all else fails, you can always put your charading skills to the test. And, remember, there’s always Google Translate! We hope this post will help you on your travels in Taiwan. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. As always, feel free to follow us on social media and subscribe to our blog to learn more about our adventures in Taiwan and other amazing parts of Asia.

Happy traveling!

 


 

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Basic Chinese for travelers in Taiwan

 

 

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18 thoughts on “How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan”

  • This is super helpful, thank you! Wherever we travel, we always try to learn a little bit of the language and make an effort to use it when speaking with locals. Even if the locals can speak English, I always find it nice to at least say hello, thank you, etc in the local language and they always seem amused and thankful that we are making an effort 🙂
    Chinese seems pretty difficult because of all the different tones- I’ll definitely have to practice these words and phrases a lot before attempting to use them there! haha

  • Beautiful snaps! And thanks for making the life of fellow travelers so easy. You have listed here almost all the phrases that I can think of, which one would need when visiting a foreign land. And to have such a list ready with me is the best I like when traveling. The one sentence that I think is the most important of all would be to learn how to speak “My Chinese is not good ” or “I don’t know Chinese” 🙂

  • Wow! This is such a useful and comprehensive guide about how to speak Chinese. I am sure that it is going to help all the travellers. Though I myself is quite unsure of the pronunciations!! It would be so difficult for me to say that I want a beer! But I am sure, the people there are quite helpful and would pardon my accent!

  • Oh, man! These are hard but helpful. So, you have to keep it in your pocket or purse when you’re there. Though I think we can always use calculator language when shopping. That’s what I did in Bangkok. Haha…

    • Thanks Umiko! Yes, it is quite hard to be honest. But, it will definitely help you!

      High five on using calculator language! I didn’t think of that when we were in Thailand! You’d need a pretty impressive calculator to work in Taiwan, tho. 😆

    • That’s great, Sherrie! To be honest, it is quite hard…but luckily Taiwanese people are very friendly! So even if you don’t get the tones 100% right, changes are they will still try their best to help out. There are plenty of resources online where you can listen to the pronunciations of all the pinyin sounds.

      Just as a heads up, Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese so the characters and pronunciation are a little bit different from mainland China.

  • Loved this guide! It will definitely be helpful when i visit Taiwan, so thank you so much for that. You really nailed all of the essential words and phrases … including a few that are particularly useful that people may not have thought of learning beforehand.

  • I actually only knew how to say Hello, so this is a huge education for me! To be honest, I’ve never visited this part of the world so the language is unfamiliar (unlike French and Spanish as I’ve been in countries that speak these languages far more often). But I do think this will be handy if I ever do visit (and to decipher menus like a pro in China Town in London!

  • Oh this post is going to be of great help for me in future. Im definitely going to remember ‘I’m vegetarian’ as I always find it difficult to interact with the locals regarding the food. I always make sure to remember couple of important phrases to make travelling easier in non English speaking places.

  • Great list of phrases/words. I lived in Mainland China for a year and never got fluent in the language. It seems that a lot of people want to practice their English. We lived in a town about 90 minutes outside of Beijing, so there wasn’t a lot of English. I was fortunate enough to always buy my vegetables and meats from the same ladies, so they helped me with Chinese some. It is a tough one to master. I also had a book that I carried with me to make translation a little easier. Mainly, I found the people to be so kind and helpful.

  • It’s always a good idea to learn a few essential phrases in local language. Frankly, it didn’t go too well for me in Taiwan though. A common scenario was: I tried to say something, locals tried to answer in English, and then we all resorted to a translating app :). I have to say that Taiwanese are the most friendly and patient people I ever met. They were extremely helpful and hospitable despite my obvious lack of language.

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