How to speak Chinese like a pro in Taiwan

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!

Language Barriers

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.

Taiwan // Basic Chinese for travellers in Taiwan // Don't want to be lost in translation when visiting Taiwan? I've got you covered! Check out these handy phrases to help you speak Chinese in Taiwan and help you get by on your trip. #taiwan #chinesephrases #travel #languagebarriers #travelphrases #essentialphrases #basicphrases
Taiwan // Basic Chinese for travellers in Taiwan // Don't want to be lost in translation when visiting Taiwan? I've got you covered! Check out these handy phrases to help you speak Chinese in Taiwan and help you get by on your trip. #taiwan #chinesephrases #travel #languagebarriers #travelphrases #essentialphrases #basicphrases
Photo by Andrew Haimerl on Unsplash

Speak Chinese in Taiwan like a boss!

The Basics

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)

Klook.com

Getting around

Taiwan // Basic Chinese for travellers in Taiwan // Don't want to be lost in translation when visiting Taiwan? I've got you covered! Check out these handy phrases to help you speak Chinese in Taiwan and help you get by on your trip. #taiwan #chinesephrases #travel #languagebarriers #travelphrases #essentialphrases #basicphrases
Photo by diGital Sennin on Unsplash

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.

Klook.com

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

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

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.

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)

Bubble Milk Tea – Zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶)

Klook.com

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)

So…

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.

Taiwan // Basic Chinese for travellers in Taiwan // Don't want to be lost in translation when visiting Taiwan? I've got you covered! Check out these handy phrases to help you speak Chinese in Taiwan and help you get by on your trip. #taiwan #chinesephrases #travel #languagebarriers #travelphrases #essentialphrases #basicphrases

This post was updated on February 29, 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Some links on Hoponworld contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please refer to our Privacy Policy.



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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *