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Far East: know your phrases

By October 31, 2014 November 7th, 2018 No Comments

Here are some useful phrases you might need when visiting the Far East.

As a traveller in Asia, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get by in countries where you don’t speak the language. Even if you’re the only person who speaks a word of English, you can usually rely on nonverbal forms of communication, along with local people’s genuine desire to be helpful, to get whatever you need. Making yourself understood adds to the adventure of Asian travel.

However, having even just a few key words of a local language at your disposal can help you break the ice, draw out a smile or get important information or help, faster and more easily than you otherwise could. Here we review some key words and phrases in Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Bahasa Malaysia.


For travellers, Thailand has been a popular destination for decades. As a result, the Thai people are accustomed to tourists. However, that doesn’t mean they’re accustomed to polite tourists who’ve taken the time to learn how to address them in their own language. With a few good Thai phrases at your disposal, you’ll find that Thailand really is the “Land of Smiles”.

Hello Sa-wat-dee
Goodbye Lah garn
Yes Chai
No Mai chai
Please Ga-ru-nah
Thank-you Korp kun
What is your name? Kun cheu a-rai?
Where are you from? Mah jahk tee nai?
Do you speak English? Kun poot pah-sah ang-grit dai mai?
I don’t understand. Mai kow jai
Where can I find a cheap hotel? Rohng roam tee rah-kah took yoo tee nai?
How much does this cost? Nee tow rai?/ gee baht?
Can you reduce the price a bit? Lot rah-kah noy dai mai?
I need a doctor Dorng gahn mor
Please can you help Choo-ay noy krup (or choo-ay noy ka for females)
Call the police! Ree-ak dam-roo at nay!

For flights to Thailand visit

China (Mandarin)

Written Chinese is notoriously difficult for a “laowai” (a foreigner) to learn. However, it’s not hard to pick up a few spoken phrases. Although many different dialects of Chinese are spoken throughout the country, Standard Chinese, or Mandarin, is the official national language and the best starting point for making yourself understood.

Hello Nǐ hǎo
Please Qǐng
Thank you Xièxie nǐ
Yes Shì
No Búshì
I don’t understand Wǒ tīng bù dǒng
I don’t speak Chinese Wǒ bú huì jiǎng Zhōngwén.
Do you speak English? Nǐ huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?
Where is the subway station? Qǐngwèn dìtiězhàn zài nǎ er?
How much does this cost? Zhè shì duōshǎo qián?
Where is the bathroom? Cèsǔo zài nǎ er?
Can you help me? Nǐ néng bāngbāngmáng ma?
How do you get to the airport? Qù jīchǎng zěnme zǒu?

For flights to China visit


Especially in a busy city like Tokyo, Japanese culture can seem rather stiff at first. However, you’ll be surprised how common it is for complete strangers to go out of their way to help you, even personally taking you where you need to go instead of just pointing you in the right direction. Nonetheless, it can help to have some common Japanese phrases at your disposal.

In theory, all Japanese children learn English at school. In practice, you’ll find that very few Japanese people understand more than a handful of English words.

Thank you Arigatoo gozaimasu
You’re welcome Doo itashimashite
Please Onegai shimasu
Yes Hai
No Iie
Excuse me Sumimasen
Do you speak English? Eigo o hanashimasu ka?
I don’t understand Wakarimasen
Where is the subway? Chikatetsu wa doko desu ka?
How much does that cost? Kore wa ikura desu ka?
Can you help me? Tetsudatte itadakemasu ka?
Where is the bathroom? Ofuro wa doko desu ka?

For flights to Japan visit


English is spoken fairly widely in Malaysian cities, although you may struggle to find someone who understands English if you’re in a more rural area. Nonetheless, it’s a great idea to equip yourself with some basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia, which is the main language spoken. A bonus is Bahasa Malaysia is one of the easiest Asian languages for foreigners to pick up, thanks to its straightforward pronunciation.

Please Sila
Thank you Terima kasi
Yes Ya
No Tidak
I can’t speak Bahasa Malaysia Saya tidak boleh cakap Bahasa Malaysia
Does someone here speak English? Adaka seorang yang cakap Bahasa Inggeris disini?
How much? Berapa harga
That’s too expensive Mahal sangat
Can you reduce the price? Boleh kurang?
Where is the bathroom? Di mana tandas?
Help Tolong
Please help me Tolonglah saya
I need a doctor Saya perlu doctor

For flights to Malaysia visit