"Travel" Chinese: Week 1

Follow Efrain's journey as he takes his first week's lesson, using useful travel vocabulary in Chinese. He learns phrases like how to say "where to" in Chinese.

My name is Efrain, and this is my weekly column on my journey to becoming fluent in Chinese with TutorABC Chinese.

As I previously mentioned in my introduction, I hope to travel to China soon. When that happens, I will definitely need to know how to get around in a taxi. My first lesson of the New Year was on taking a cab to various locations across Beijing. I really like how the lesson was situational, and it simulated conversations I would have in real life.

For example, I started by learning the phrase, "请问要到哪里 (qǐng wèn yào dào nǎ lǐ)," which means "where to?" It is something a real taxi driver would ask me in China, so I need to know how to respond. My Chinese consultant provided the sentence structure to me as the answer:

Chinese: "请到___"
English: "Please go to the___"


Then, I just need to fill in the blank with the location I need to go to. But in order to do that, I need to learn the vocabulary for the locations I wanted to go. I first learned "酒店 (jiǔ diàn)" which means "hotel." I recognized the character 酒 (jiǔ) and I knew that that meant "alcohol." Why did the Chinese word for "hotel" have the character for "alcohol" in it? My instructor explained that hotels (and taverns and inns) used to be a place for travelers to rest and relax, have a drink and a place to stay, if needed. Gradually, hotels evolved into primarily providing lodging, and bars appeared to satisfy the alcohol demand - but the name "酒店" stuck. "酒店 (jiǔ diàn)" literally means "alcohol shop."


When I'm in China, I want to see all the main attractions, so my instructor taught me the vocabulary. I learned about The Great Wall. The Chinese name is "万里长城 (wàn lǐ cháng chéng)“ which literally means "10,000 mile long wall." It's actually 13,170 miles, according to Google. I also learned about the "故宫 (gù gōng) which is The Forbidden City, the emperor's palace. I'd only seen pictures in the past, so it was great to learn more about China's history in my Chinese lesson.

My favorite word of this lesson was probably "师傅 (shī fù)." My Chinese consultant told me that that's what Chinese people call their taxi drivers. It reminded me of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. As it turns out, 师傅 (shī fù) means "master." This makes sense, because taxi drivers need to know the ins and outs of every city, and be masters of the road. (Wait, does that mean that Master Shifu is really "Master Master?")

One thing I struggled with in this lesson was Chinese tones. I had a hard time between the first tone and the second tone - 听 (tīng) "listen" and 停 (tíng) "stop." As always, you need to be careful with your tones or else you could be saying the wrong thing. In this case it's not so bad, but you may be telling your 师傅 (shī fù) to listen instead of stop.

Sentence Structure Review

Chinese: "请到 (qǐng dào)___"
English: "Please go to the___"

Vocabulary List
Chinese Pinyin English
出租车 chū zū chē  Taxi 
师傅  shī fù Taxi Driver
请问要到哪里  qǐng wèn yào dào nǎ lǐ Pardon, where to?
请到  qǐng dào Please go to...
这里靠靠边停  zhè lǐ kào kào biān tíng Pull over there
请问多少钱  qǐng wèn duō shǎo qián Pardon, how much?
 酒店  jiǔ diàn Hotel
 故宫  gù gōng The Forbidden City
 天安门  tiān ān mén Tiananmen Square
 万里长城  wàn lǐ cháng chéng The Great Wall
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