Getting excited? I know I am. Recently I have been looking up phrases to use once I hit the ground in Beijing. Because I am there for a few days (a week) in advance I know there are some things that I will do on my own. Thus I wanted phrases right at my fingertips.
I recommend getting a phrase book - amazing tool. I bought one from Lonely Planet that includes all the different dialects in China (well most of them). This I thought was useful because we could end up anywhere.
I also recently just went onto Google and translated some of my own phrases that I knew I would need and got the character forms as well since if my pronunciation is terrible (it has been a couple of years since I was there) I could just let them read what I wrote.
**Side note to this! Where ever you end up make up a 'get out of jail' card. My professors named it this because it was a lifesaver. One a card type (size of a business card), write your address in the proper characters that you will be staying and a contact number of someone that can speak fluent Chinese (what ever dialect you are living in). That way if you are lost just show them this card and they should be able to find your home, and if lost they can call the number and speak to someone - This is an amazing lifesaver. Even though I had an address once the cab driver got lost and still have to get directions from my professors wife**
Alright so now to some phrases that I figured out. (I don't know if you can read the Mandarin characters).
1. I want to buy a SIM card. (this is great if you already have an unlocked phone and are buying a SIM card for it. You should be able to find a China Mobile in the Airport so that you can get it before you leave - I trust the big name places and in places like this for the good products.)
- Wo xiang mai yi zhang SIM ka. (tonal goes like this : v v v - - _ v . Each tonal goes above the syllable, expect SIM doesn't have one so I replaced it with _.
2. I want to buy a cellphone.
- Wo xiang mai yi bu shouji (tonal: v v v - \ v -)
3. Please take me to this Hostel.
- Qing dai wo dao zhege sushe. (tonal: v \ v \ \ \ \ )
4. How much do you think this will cost? (this is important so that you don't get cheated in a 'fake' taxi - Make sure they start their meter! Most have a starting point but should rise not long after)
- Duoshao qian ni renwei zhe jiang chenben? (tonal: - v / v \ / \ - / v)
If you notice in the top two the similarities in the phrases - Wo = I, xiang mai = the want to buy- the Mandarin grammar is most similar to English. If you think about a phrase and just substitute the words the phrase most usually works and is usually understandable.
If you have any questions just let me know. If you are going early most Hostels have a translation or a card or something that they can email you so that all you have to do is hand it to a cab driver. But trying to say something rather than just handing over a piece of paper is fun!
Check out Google Translation or other translating services (that seem appropriate) to translate other phrases you think you might need before you go. I remember when I first went there my professor gave me two phrases and left us on Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai (tourist street). They were "bu yao" and "tai gue la" meaning I don't want it and too expensive. I hope these phrases come in handy for you...I wrote them in my agenda on the note section and on the agenda date that I will arrive so I don't have to look for them.
What are fun phrases that you know or learned or want to learn?
Oh - should have mentioned this here too! Phone numbers!!! Dialing into China dial : 011+86+(number with area code). Dialing out of China (to Canada or US) : 00+1+(number with area code). For other countries just substitute the front numbers of course. A great website for this is <http://www.howtocallabroad.com/china/> TTYL (I swear that is it! )
Good Luck everyone and see you all in August!