chinese conversation script

3 Chinese Conversation Scripts to Prepare You for Real-world Dialogues

Beginner Chinese conversation scripts are the worst.

No, that’s not a typo.

Imagine you look up a scripted example dialogue in Mandarin and read through it.

You download PDFs with lists of words and phrases for Chinese conversations and practice them dutifully.

You read through the English translations and know exactly what you’re saying.

You even looked up the Chinese dialogue in pinyin and can pronounce every word perfectly.

Then you go to a restaurant hoping to execute the scripted Chinese conversation that you can perform epically, and this happens:

You: 你好. (nǐ hǎo.) – Hello.

Server: 早. (zǎo.)

You: … [because scripted conversations never work like this]

早上好 (zǎo shàng hǎo) means “good morning,” and (zǎo) is a shortened form, kind of like how we just say “mornin'” in English.

But you didn’t know that. How could you have known that would be the server’s response?

To prevent your dialogue from crashing and burning within the first few seconds, we’re going to teach you how to have a real conversation in Chinese.

We’ll use three different scripts so you’ll have something to refer back to, but we’ll also show you how a versatile script is so much better than the regular “you say, they say” scripts you’re probably used to.

3 Chinese Conversation Scripts to Prepare You for Real-world Dialogues

Most Chinese dialogue scripts follow the same basic structure: the greeting, then a bunch of Chinese-language-based conversation. The downside of a language-based script is that, in real life, you speak to people who could say anything at any point during the conversation.

chinese conversation script

We’ve created our own Chinese conversation scripts for this post. If you want to see even more dialogue scripts, check out FluentU. The program naturally eases you into learning the Mandarin language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:

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FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up.

All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.

chinese-conversation-script

From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.

chinese-conversation-script

FluentU’s Quizzes turn every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your learning, then suggests content and examples based on what you’ve already learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.

Try FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the FluentU iOS or Android app today!

With that in mind, here are three people-based conversation scripts that you can use anywhere.

If you use these conversations, the person you’re talking to probably won’t realize you’re a beginner. In each script, if there’s a reference note (1) after a set of lines in the conversation, and that portion will be discussed under the “Notes” section for that script. These notes will better prepare you for what could come up in conversation.

First Things First: Rules About Chinese Greetings

  • If you aren’t sure whether the other person is Chinese or not, say “Hello” in English along with your nǐ hǎo. People of other Asian nationalities probably won’t appreciate you assuming they’re Chinese.
  • If you can confirm someone is Chinese before you start a conversation with them (for example, if you overhear them speaking Chinese), skip the greeting altogether.
  • These rules apply in any circumstance.

All conversations can start something like this:

You: 你是中国人吗?(nǐ shì zhōng guó rén ma?) – Are you from China?
Them: 是啊!(shì ā!) – I am! 1

You: 中国哪里?(zhōng guó nǎ li?) – Where in China are you from?
Them: 我是___的. (wǒ shì ___ de.) – I’m from ____; they could say any of these provinces or cities.

You: 在那里有方言吗?(zài nà li yǒu fāng yán ma?) – Is there a dialect in that area?
Them: . (yǒu.) – There is. 2

You: 你的母语是普通话吗?(mǐ de mǔ yǔ shì pú tōng huà ma?) – Is Mandarin your mother tongue?
Them: (possible answers):

是的 (shì de.) – It is.

不是 (bú shì.) – No, it’s not. 3

Notes:

  1. You: 你是中国人吗?(nǐ shì zhōng guó rén ma?) – Are you from China?
    Them: 是啊!(shì ā!) – I am!

If you’re in China, don’t use this line, because the other person is probably Chinese (in fact, just jump to script number three.) However, if you aren’t in China, it’s a fabulous conversation starter.

  1. You: 在那里有方言吗?(zài nà li yǒu fāng yán ma?) – Is there a dialect in that area?
    Them: 方言就是普通话. (fāng yán jǐu shì pú tōng huà.) – The local dialect is Mandarin.

Mandarin actually began as a local dialect near Beijing, so if the person you’re speaking with is from that area, the bolded phrase above is a potential answer. There aren’t any places in China without a local dialect, so the negative answer 没有 (méi yǒu) – “there isn’t” isn’t a realistic option.

  1. You: 你的母语普通话吗?(nǐ de mǔ yǔ shì pú tōng huà ma?) – Is Mandarin your mother tongue?
    Them: (possible answers):

的. (shì de.) – It is.

不是. (bú shì.) – No, it’s not.

Grammar point: Chinese doesn’t have words that literally mean “yes” and “no.” Instead, the words confirm or deny what was just said. A response to a yes-or-no question will likely be based off of the verb included in the question. In this case, the verb (shì – to be) is used. The answer will likely either be  (shì – is) or 不是 (bú shì – is not).

Script 1: Speaking to a Chinese Resident in Your Home Country

You: 你读书还是上班? (nǐ dú shū hái shi shàng bàn?) – Are you studying or working here?
Them: (possible answers):

读书. (dú shū.) – study.

上班. (shàng bàn.) – work. 4

You: 你住在这里多久了? (nǐ zhù zài zhè li duō jiǔ le?) – How long have you lived here?
Them: (possible answers):

已经 x 年了. (yǐ jīng x nián le.) – It’s already been x years.

已经 x 个月了. (yǐ jīng x gè yuè le.) – It’s already been x months.

就 x 天了. (jiǔ x tiān le.) – It’s only been x days.

我 ___ 年搬到这里了. (wǒ ___ nián bān dào zhè li le.) – I moved here in ___ [referring to the year].

我 ___ 年来了. (wǒ ___ nián lái le.) – I got here in ___ [referring to the year]. 5

You: 习惯了吗? (xí guàn le ma?) – Have you gotten used to living here?
Them: (possible answers):

习惯了. (xí guàn le.) – Yeah, I’ve gotten used to it.

还没. (hái méi.) – Not yet.

不习惯. (bù xí guàn.) – Not used to it; usually said when the person has given up hope of getting accustomed.

You: 喜欢这边吗? (xǐ huān zhè biàn ma?) – How do you like it here?
Them: (possible answers):

不太喜欢. (bú tài xǐ huān.) – I don’t like it so much, as in “I’m only here because I have to be.”

还可以. (hái kě yǐ.) – It’s good, as in “it’s doable.”

不错. (bú cuò.) – Not bad, as in “I’m liking it so far.”

喜欢. (xǐ huān.) – I like it here, as in “two thumbs up.”

You: 你的父母还在中国吗? (nǐ de fū mǔ hái zài zhōng guó ma?) – Are your parents still in China?
Them: (possible answers):

还在. (hái zài.)They are.

不在. (bú zài.) – They aren’t. 6

Notes:

  1. You: 你读书还是上班? (nǐ dú shū hái shi shàng bàn?) – Are you studying or working here?
    Them: (possible answers)

读书. (dú shū.) – Study.

上班. (shàng bàn.) – Work.

Grammar point: Using the word 还是 (hái shi) – “or” creates a multiple choice question, similar to the yes-or-no style of question in Chinese grammar, but with two other options instead of “yes” or “no.”

It’s also good to know that another possible answer will contain the word 旅游 (lǚ yóu) – traveling. If they say this, you’ll need Script 2 below.

  1. You: 你住在这里多久了? (nǐ zhù zài zhè li duō jiǔ le?) – How long have you lived here?
    Them: (possible answers):

已经 x 了. (yǐ jīng x nián le.)- It’s already been x years.

已经 x 个了. (yǐ jīng x gè yuè le.) – It’s already been x months.

就 x 了. (jiǔ x tiān le.) – It’s only been x days.

我 ___ 搬到这里了. (wǒ ___ nián bān dào zhè li le.) – I moved here in ___ [referring to the year].

我 ___ 来了. (wǒ ___ nián lái le.) – I got here in ___ [referring to the year].

In Chinese, durations of time are generalized. For example, if you ask a parent how old their baby is, they’ll say “not quite one year old” instead of “10 months.”

The only two components you’ll need for this answer are duration of time (years, months, days, etc.) and numbers (one to 10 generally are good enough). If you can understand the basics of these two concepts, you’ll likely understand pretty much any answer they give you. If it was recent enough, they may just tell you the date they arrived.

  1. You: 你的父母还在中国吗? (nǐ de fū mǔ hái zài zhōng guó ma?) – Are your parents still in China?
    Them: (possible answers):

还在. (hái zài.) – They are.

不在. (bú zài.) – They aren’t.

If the person is older, you may not want to ask about their parents for obvious reasons. It would be more appropriate to ask:

你的家人也在这里吗? (nǐ de jiā rén yě zài zhè li ma?) – Is your family here, too?

If it turns out an older person’s parents are still around, they’ll likely tell you how old they are:

他们 x 岁. (tā men x suì.) – They are x years old.

Although the question is a two-option type of question (zài or búzài), a younger person may not respond with the typical búzài. If they don’t respond with a simple answer, then it will be a story. The last section of this article will teach you how to manage those situations.

Script 2: Speaking to a Chinese Traveler

You: 你多长时间在这边? (nǐ duō cháng shí jiān zài zhè li?.) – How long will you be here?
Them: (possible answers):

已经 x了, 还有 x. (yǐ jīng x le, hái you x.) – I’ve already been here x, I’ll be here for another x.

一共 x. (yǐ gōng x.)In total x.

You: 你和家人一起旅游吗? (nǐ hé jiā rén yī qǐ lǚ yóu ma?) – Are you traveling with your family?
Them: (possible answers):

和家人一起. (hé jiā rén yīqǐ.) – With family.

我和___. (wǒ hé ___.) – Me and ___.

我一个人旅游. (wǒ yī gè rén lǚ yóu.) – I’m traveling by myself.

我出差了. (wǒ chū chāi le.) – I’m on a business trip.

You: 喜欢这边吗? (xǐ huān zhè biàn ma?) – How do you like it here?
Them: (possible answers):

不太喜欢. (bú tài xǐ huān.) – I don’t like it so much, as in “I’m only here because I have to be.”

还可以. (hái kě yǐ.) – It’s good, as in “it’s a decent travel spot.”

不错. (bú cuò.) – Not bad, as in “I’m liking it so far.”

喜欢. (xǐ huān.) – I like it here, as in “two thumbs up.” 7

You: 你觉得走来走去容不容易? (nǐ jué de zǒu lái zǒu qù róng bù róng yì?) – Do you think it’s easy to get around here?
Them: (possible answers):

可以的. (kě yǐ de.) – It’s manageable.

不太容易. (bú tài róng yì.) – It’s not so easy.

很容易. (hén róng yì.) – It’s pretty easy.

Notes:

  1. You: 喜欢这边吗? (xǐ huān zhè biàn ma?) – How do you like it here?
    Them: (possible answers)

不太喜欢. (bú tài xǐ huān.) – I don’t like it so much, as in “I’m only here because I have to be.”

还可以. (hái kě yǐ.) – It’s good, as in “it’s a decent travel spot.”

不错. (bú cuò.) – Not bad, as in “I’m liking it so far.”

喜欢. (xǐ huān.) – I like it here, as in “two thumbs up.”

The “Do you like ___ here?” is a very useful structure to know for conversations. If you add a (de) after zhè biàn, you can ask about other things that will get similar answers:

这边的菜 (zhè biàn de cài) – the food here

这边的天气 (zhè biàn de tiān qī) – the weather here

这边的人 (zhè biàn de rén) – the people here

Script 3: Traveling to China

You: 你是本地人吗? (nǐ shì běn dì rén ma?) – Are you a local?
Them: (possible answers):

是的. (shì) – I am.

不是. (bú shì) – I’m not. 8

You: 你喜欢___吗? (nǐ xǐ huān ___ ma?) – Do you like [the name of the city or province you’re in]?
Them: (possible answers):

不太喜欢. (bú tài xǐ huān.) – I don’t like it that much.

还可以. (hái kěyǐ.) – It’s good, as in “it’s doable.”

不错. (bú cuò.) – Not bad, as in “I’m liking it so far.”

喜欢. (xǐ huān.) – I like it here.

You: 我是___的。你认识过___人吗? (wǒ shì ___ de. nǐ rèn shi guò ___rén ma?) I’m from ____. Have you ever met a ____ before?
Them: (possible answers):

认识过. (rèn shi guò.) – I have.

这是第一次. (zhè shì dì yī cì.) – This is the first time.

你是第一个. (nǐ shì dì yī gè.) – You’re the first. 9

You: 你去过别的国家吗? (nǐ qù guò bǐe de guó jiā ma?) – Have you been to any other countries?
Them: (possible answers):

没去过. (méi qù guò.) – I haven’t.

没去国外. (méi qù guó wài.) – I haven’t been to another country.

泰国. (tài guó.)Thailand

越南. (yuè nán.) – Vietnam

菲律宾. (fēi lǜ bīn.) – Philippines

马来西亚. (mǎ lái xī yà.) – Malaysia

老挝. (lǎo wō.) – Laos

日本. (rì běn.) – Japan

韩国. (hán guó.) – Korea

欧洲. (ōu zhōu.) – Europe

美国. (měi guó.) – America

Other countries

Notes:

  1. You: 你是本地人吗? (nǐ shì běn dì rén ma?)Are you a local?
    Them: (possible answers)

是的. (shì.) – I am.

不是. (bú shì.) – I’m not.

If you skipped from the greeting to here, you haven’t covered where they’re from, so this is a great question. If the response is “not a local,” you can respond with:

You: 你是中国哪里的?(nǐ shì zhōng guó nǎ li de?) – Where in China are you from?
Them: 我是___的. (wǒ shì ___ de.) – I’m from ____; they could potentially say any of these provinces or cities.

  1. You: 我是___的。你认识过___人吗? (wǒ shì ___ de. nǐ rèn shi guò ___rén ma?) I’m from ____. Have you ever met a ____ before?
    Them: (possible answers):

认识过. (rèn shi guò.) – I have.

这是第.一次. (zhè shì dì yī cì.) – This is the first time.

你是第.一个. (nǐ shì dì yī gè.) – You’re the first.

Grammar point: in most cases, if you say the name of a country (or continent) followed by (rén) – person/people, it becomes “a citizen of” said country. For example, 美国 (měi guó) means “America,” and 美国人 (měi guó rén) means “American.”

6 Phrases to Add to Any Scripted Chinese Conversation

When you bring example Chinese dialogue into the real world, there’s a 99.99% chance that the person you’re talking to will go off script. Here are six phrases that all beginning Chinese learners should know.

Note: The definitions and English translations provided are in the context of a beginner Chinese learner speaking with a native Chinese speaker. These phrases can easily apply to other situations but might carry a different flavor depending on the context.

How to Apologize

There are two main reasons that you, as a beginning Chinese learner, have to know how to apologize to your native Chinese-speaking counterpart.

First, it’s culturally important. Apologizing for not understanding the other person shows that you won’t demand that they come down to your level of Chinese. It also shows that you want to communicate with them despite your language limitations. An apology can be viewed as both respectful and endearing.

Second, it’s not their fault they went off script.

Here’s how to apologize:

  • 不好意思. (bù hǎo yī si.) – a way to apologize if you don’t understand what the other person is trying to say
  • 对不起. (duì bù qǐ.) – a way to apologize if you realize you just have to chalk up that conversation as a loss (it happens)

Tip: Go sentence by sentence, not word by word. If you get the gist of what they’re trying to say, roll with it. If it turns out you missed something important, apologize later.

Also, learn the chorus to this song (the song starts at :28).

How to Say “I Don’t Understand”

Chinese is a very logic-based yet flexible language, so you’ll find there are multiple common ways to say the same thing, and yet somehow they all mean something different. “I don’t understand” is a perfect example of that.

There are three main ways to say “I don’t understand”:

  • 没听懂. (méi tīng dǒng.)
    • Literal Meaning: “Didn’t hear and get it.”
    • Implied Meaning: “I clearly heard what you said, but I don’t know what that means.”
    • When to Use: If the other person says a word or phrase that you’ve never heard before, say this.
    • Note: There’s a very similar phrase, 听不懂 (tīng bù dǒng), that basically means the same thing, but you’d say it as a reason to end a conversation, not ask for explanation.
  • 不明白. (bù míng bái.)
    • Literal Meaning: “Don’t understand.”
    • Implied Meaning: “I heard and understood what you said, but I don’t understand your point.”
    • When to Use: If you know the words the other person is saying but you don’t get the gist of what they’re trying to communicate, say this.
  • 不知道什么意思. (bù zhī dào shén me yī si.)
    • Literal Meaning: “I don’t know what [that] means.”
    • Implied Meaning: “I don’t understand what that has to do with what we’re talking about.”
    • When to Use: If you understood every word that was said and understand what those words or phrases mean on their own, but you don’t understand how it fits into the context of the conversation, say this.

To be more specific about what you didn’t understand, you can say:

  • [word or phrase] 什么意思? (shén me yī si?)
    • Literal Meaning: “What does [word or phrase] mean?”
    • Implied Meaning: “If you tell me what that one phrase means, I’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.”
    • When to Use: If the other person says one word or phrase that you don’t understand—especially if that word or phrase could break the flow of the conversation—say this.

 

Study these three Chinese conversation scripts, and you’ll be prepared to meet a native Chinese speaker. Do your best and enjoy the conversations!

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