The Chinese authorities certainly have quite some sense of humour, don't they?
Do you understand what they are trying to tell you? Or warn you??
But then again, they have come a long way...... At least they are trying.
Good luck to you if you don't speak Mandarin, I've problem communicating with the locals, especially in Beijing. Hardly anyone speaks English on the street. The accent is Shanghai is much easier to comprehend.
If you have English-speaking friends calling you at your hotel, it is best for you to call the front desk and tell them to put the call to your room. Not sure if you will have this problem in the more expensive hotels though.
I just returned from Beijing. Travel by taxi is inexpensive by Western standards. Something we learned very quickly, however, is that very few taxi drivers understand English, written or spoken. Get your hotel to print in Chinese writing the directions of your hotel and to where you are going. Some hotels will have pre-printed cards with the major tourist attractions printed in English and in Chinese. Most taxi drivers are hontst, but some will try to hustle you. Don't take a taxi if they do not use the meter. You will inveribly pay a higher fare.
Putonghua = "Common language" or Mandarin is the official language of China of over a billion people. It is actually a dialect originally spoken around Beijing.
All over China, you will find many dialects spoken like Shanghainese, Hainanese and Cantonese. But most people will be able to communicate with outsiders using Mandarin. Also all these dialects are written using the same standard Chinese script.
Mandarin is easy to learn but difficult to write. There are four different tones to each sound but used incorrectly often a foreigner sounds funny or comical.
Of course, most locals will be able to guess "Ni hao" in all the wrong tones but be too polite to try to correct your tones.
Also you may want to know that in China, simplified Chinese characters are used while in Taiwan the traditional Chinese characters are maintained.
It is not impossible to learn enough Mandarin to read the signs and speak a few simple phrases. So have fun learning Chinese.
Beijing people speak Mandarin a bit different. They tend to emphasize on the "r " sound more than other parts of China. I like the way it sounds.
Anyway, learn a few Chinese words will help you to get around better. People in Beijing dont really speak English like in Shanghai. For someone who look kinda Chinese but cant speak or dont understand more than Ni Hao, like me, you should probably learn something like " I don't understand Chinese" -- Wo Bu Dong., for when someone come ask you for the direction since they think you look like a local, then you can reply to them. Or " I don't want" -- Bu Yao -- this is essential for when sales people approach you, just say this phrase and they will go away.
Get a phrasebook and learn a bit before you go.
These basic words proved useful enough for me, when i first arrived in the city, and atleast allowed me to locate and book in at a nearby hotel. Although English is obviously a frequently spoken language.
Ni hao = Hello
Xiexie = thankyou
sha ma = what?
zheli = here
nali = over there
zuo = left
y'ou = right
And others that proved handy later:
zuqiu = football
meiwenti = no problem
wan an = good night
These in combination with the god-send that is the bible of travel anywhere.... the Lonely Planet guide which has direct translations for every hotel and attraction. So you can simply point at the word if you get that desperate!!!
- Replace the last consonant of any word with the letter 'R' and pronounce it in a long drawn out way. (e.g. Sanlitun becomes Sanlitur)
- Don't add English or foreign emphasis to words because this confuses the Chinese tones of words?
- Turn left .... zwor gweye
- Turn right .... yo gweye
- Straight ahead .... yi-chuh zo
- Stop .... dhow-ler
- I'm not a bloody tourist! .... Wo boo shur luyoda!
- Slow down! .... Man man man!
If you have any real serious problem with taxis (it almost NEVER happens though...they may drive badly, but they are mostly very friendly and very honest) make a real show of writing down their ID number (it is written on a card on the dashboard).
Note that in many taxis, the rear left door (behind the driver) doesn't work.
Learn a little bit of Chinese before you go over to China! If you're staying in hotels (even a four star) you may encounter problems with communicating with staff if you have any difficulties.
A phrase book could be very handy although it may be a good idea to master a few words (with correct tones!) before you arrive. Things like thank you (xie xie) are always a pleasant surprise and I don't understand (wo bu dong le) can be helpful.
Learn Chinese (Mandarin) - The Easy Way!
Do you know how to speak Cantonese too?
Ni ye hui shuo Guang Dong hua ma?
Glad to meet you!
Jian dao ni hen gao xing!
Wan shang hao!
Zhu ni hao yun!
Zao chen hao!
How do you say ... in Chinese?... (an English word or phrase)
de zhong wen zen me shuo?
How's your dad and mom?
Ni de ba ba ma ma hao ma?
I am - Krystynn.
Wo shi - Krystynn.
I don't speak Chinese.
Wo bu hui jiang hua yu.
I think you are cute.
Wo jue de ni hen ke ai. :-)
Let me introduce you to each other.
Wo gei ni men jie shao yi xia.
May I speak with - (name of person)?
Wo ke yi he - (name of person) shuo hua ma?
See you next time.
See you tomorrow!
Ming tian jian.
Ma ma hu hu.
Speak slowly so that I can learn it.
Shuo de man dianr, wo hao xue.
Dui Bu Qi!
Welcome to my home.
Huan ying dao wo jia zuo ke.
What is your name?
Ni gui xing?
Wish you a happy journey!
Zhu ni luu tu yu kuai!
Zhu ni yi lu shun feng!
Wish you a safe journey back home!
Zhu ni yi lu ping an!
Below: Exhibits from the Beijing National Palace Museum showing what people used to dress during the Tang Dynasty.
This handy little card will help you get around when taking taxis in Beijing. Print out a few copies and give it to your driver to show them where you want to go. Click on the image for a larger version that you can read.