Language

China & Taiwan – Useful Phrases

Putong hua is the National Language of the People’s Republic of China.  It is the official language and the language of tuition in schools. There are hundreds of Chinese dialects, however, and most are incomprehensible to a standard Chinese (Putonghua) speaker).

The language spoken in Taiwan is also Putonghua, although sometimes spoken with a less than standard accent. The terms below for Taiwan are very similar to those used in mainland China

We have made some amendments to the Taiwan list below, added a couple of examples and given our version of the pronunciation, where there is a marked difference

CHINA

  • Ni hao – Hello

Casual way of saying hello among people.  It can also be used to  people who you meet for the very first time.

  • Wei – Hello (pronounced ‘way’)

when answering a phone call

  • Hen gao xing ren shih ni - Nice to meet you

A more formal way of saying hello to the people for the very first time.

  • Ni hao ma? - How are you?

It can be said to someone you have not seen for a while.  A yes/no phrase usually ends in “ma” with the tone raised.

  • Zai jian – Goodbye (pronounced ‘zai jien’)
  • Zao – Good morning (pronounced ‘zao un’).  In China, Zao is used rather than Zao An – which is used n Taiwan
  • Wan An – Good evening (pronounced ‘wine arn’)

Expressions 

  • Xie xie - Thank you (pronounced ‘hsieh hsieh’)
  • Bù kè qì – You are welcome (pronounced ‘bu ke chi’)
  • Duì bù qǐ – Being sorry or excuse me (pronounced “duay bu chi’)
  • ǎochī – It’s Yummy (pronounced ‘hao zhi’)
  • Hěn hǎo - Very good (pronounced ‘hen hao’)
  • Ni zhen hao – You are so kind (pronounced ‘ni zen hao’)
  • Mei wenti – No problem (pronounced ‘may wun tee’)
  • Deng yi xia – Wait a moment (pronounced ‘deng yi hsia’)
  • Ting bu dong – I don’t understand (pronounced ‘teen boo dong’)
  • Wo ai ni – I love you (pronounced ‘wo ai ni’)

Don’t say this to a stranger as you might get slapped on the face.

  • Da Rao Yi Xia,  excuse me
  • Ma Fan Ni yI xia: Could I trouble you
  • Qing Wen... May I ask...,please
  • - Xi Shou Jian Zai Na?   where is the toilet 
  • Gan Bei (when toasting) or Ban Bei (half glass)
  • Man Zou – a farewell greeting, literally meaning “go slowly” but more like a message of take care, go well

Directions

  • Qǐng dài wǒ qù – Please take me to xxxx (pronounced ‘ching dai wo cheu’)

Asking for something/Bargaining

  • Qing gei wo xxxx – Please give me xxx (pronounced ‘ching gay wo’)
  • Zhe ge duo xiao qian – How much is this (pronounced ‘jay ge duo shao qian’)
  • Pian yi yi dian hao ma? – Could you give me a discount?

TAIWAN

Mandarin is the official language of Taiwan used by the media and taught in schools. This is based on, but not identical to the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, known in Chinese as Putonghua (普通話).

However, more than 50% of the population in Taiwan speaks Taiwanese at home. Like Mandarin, the dialects are all tonal languages. Even within Mandarin there is often use of local slang or terminology.

The Mandarin spoken in Taiwan reflects the history of its people. The dialects spoken by the people of Taiwan add color to Taiwan’s Mandarin, both in common phrases and in place names.   Getting to know some of the commonly heard and spoken phrases in both languages may help you understanding the people and the culture better in day to day living in Taiwan.

Some of the commonly spoken phrases in Mandarin are:

Greetings

  • Ni hao – Hello

Casual ways of saying hello among people.  It can also be used to the people who you meet for the very first time.

  • Wei – Hello (pronounced ‘way’)

when answering a call

  • Hen gao sing ren shih ni - Nice to meet you

A more formal way of saying hello to the people for the very first time.

  • Ni hao ma? - How are you?

It can be said to someone you have not seen for a while.  A yes/no phrase usually ends in “ma” with the tone raised.

  • Zai jian – Goodbye (pronounced ‘zhai jien’)
  • Zao An – Good morning (pronounced ‘zao un’)
  • Wu An – Good afternoon (pronounced ‘woo un’)
  • Wan An – Good evening (pronounced ‘one un’)

Expressions 

  • Xie xie - Thank you (pronounced ‘hsieh hsieh’)
  • Bù kè qì – You are welcome (pronounced ‘bu ke chi’)
  • Duì bù qǐ – Being sorry or excuse me (pronounced “duay bu chi’)
  • ǎochī – It’s Yummy (pronounced ‘hao zhi’)
  • Hěn hǎo - Very good (pronounced ‘hen hao’)
  • Ni jhen hao – You are so kind (pronounced ‘ni zen hao’)
  • Mei wenti – No problem (pronounced ‘may wun tee’)
  • Deng yi xia – Wait a moment (pronounced ‘deng yi hsia’)
  • Ting bu dong – I don’t understand (pronounced ‘teen boo dong’)
  • Wo ai ni – I love you (pronounced ‘wo ai ni’)

Don’t say this to a stranger as you might get slapped on the face.

Directions

  • Qǐng dài wǒ qù – Please take me to xxxx (pronounced ‘ching dai wo cheu’)

Asking for something/Bargaining

  • Qing gei wo xxxx – Please give me xxx (pronounced ‘ching gay wo’)
  • Jhe ger duo shao qian – How much is this (pronounced ‘zhe ge duo shao qian’)
  • Pian yi yi dian hao ma? – Could you give me a discount?

Some of the commonly spoken phrases in Taiwanese are:

  • Jia ba voel – Have you eaten? (pronounced ‘jia ba voe’)

In English, a typical greeting is, “Hi, how are you?” or “How do you do?” Whereas in Taiwan they say ”Jia ba voel?”, which means “Have you eaten?”.  Dating back to WWII when food was scarce, the most important thing when greeting each other was to ask if they had eaten.

  • Pei sei – Sorry (pronounced ‘pie say’)
  •  ô tä lä – Cheers! Bottoms up! (pronounced ‘ho da lah’)
    Toasts while drinking

Last update: 26 February 2020