Ni hao

Ni hao: pronounced, “nee how.” This is the most common way to say hello in China, and is typically understood regardless of your pronunciation.

Xie xie

Xie xie: pronounced, “shay shay.” Thank you. You cannot be thankful enough for the many waiters/waitresses, cab drivers, and people for helping you get the things you want without knowing the language they speak.

Bu yao

Bu yao: pronounced, “boo yow” translates to “no want.” vendors are continuously trying to make a sale.

Wo yao yi ping shui

Wo yao yi ping shui: pronounced, “whoa yow ee peeng shway” Translates into “I would like a bottle of water.” A little lengthier, but just as useful, as water taken directly from the tap is not drinkable in China. I have never been to a restaurant or hotel that did not provide bottled water.

Cesuo zai nar

Cesuo zai nar: pronounced, “tsuh-swhoh zi (rhyming with eye) nahr” “Where is the bathroom?”

Wo e le

Wo e le: pronounced, “whoa uh luh” This phrase translates into “I am hungry”

Zai jian

Zai jian: pronounced, “zi jee-ann” The most common way to say “good bye”

Duo shao qian

Duo shao qian: pronounced, “dwoh shaow chee-ann.” To ask how much something costs

Wo bu shuo zhongwen

Wo bu shuo zhongwen: pronounced, “woh boo shwoh jong-wun,” and meaning “I don’t speak Chinese.”


a. Yi (ee) – 1 b. Er (ar) – 2 c. San (sahn) – 3 d. Si (suh) – 4 e. Wu (woo) – 5 f. Liu (lee-oh) – 6 g. Qi (chee) – 7 h. Ba (bah) – 8 i. Jiu (jee-oh) – 9 j. Shi (shr) – 10

Nǎlǐ, nǎlǐ!

“Not me!” (lit. “where, where!” — for deflecting compliments)


Confucian values — such as modesty — still run strong in China, so people don’t say “thank you” when praised about anything!

To learn more, the BBC language website is a great place to start: