Favorite thing: China can be forbidding for an American (and most other nationalities, I guess) traveler because the use of characters makes reading signs impossible. What I found is that most young people speak English. So if you need assistance, seek out someone in the 15-25 year old range.
Here is some common Chinese that might help with your trip. I’ve tried to write thing phonetically where I could. Hope it helps.
Hello ni hao
Goodbye Zi Chi-en
Thank you shay shay
I’m sorry/Excuse me Dui bu chi
I don’t speak Chinese. Wo bu hui jun wen
Do you speak English? ni hui ying yu ma?
How much does it cost? Duo shao chi-en
I don’t understand wo bu dong
Too expensive tai qu-e la
Can you reduce the price? Nang pe-en yi ma?
The Chinese are trying their best to reach out to foreign guests. Unfortunately, some of the best effort in translations turned out to be more baffling than useful at times, leaving you even more bewildered.
I actually had a packet of drink advising me that it contained no antiseptics, when they are trying to explain to you that the item contains no preservatives.
There is still a long way to go but giving the people credit, at least they are trying!
I have made a set of cards with names of touristic sights/streets in English and in Chinese. Really handy if you are lost somewhere or need to communicate with a taxi driver.
Please click on the following link: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/e8bba/fa3c0/
(For some reasons Chinese characters do not appear on this page)
Fondest memory: I love the signage in Asia, and was particularly fond of the signage in Beijing. Translations into English don't always work out how they are supposed to, or they seem silly. I find this novel, and it always brings a smile to my face. This sign was situated next to a patch of grass at the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs.