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Do they speak English in China?

edited August 2010 in - China
My friend is organising a trip for us to China in a few months, and I'm a little worried about the language barrier. How prevalent is English there? I'm sure it's okay in the hotels and that, but will anyone speak English in the cities? What about the rural areas? I'm not so excited to go if I have to learn Chinese.


  • edited 7:03PM
    Hi there.

    Certainly in the cities you will find that people do speak english even if it is sometimes a little broken. In the main international hotels and most hostels people will also speak english. From my experience I found that in the more rural areas people did not speak english at all. Although if you are visiting rural areas that are used to western tourists then people are very accomodating and will genreally try to understand you and help. The international language of pointing always comes in handy too in some circumstances. Its definatly worth taking a guide book with you as they usually have helpful phrases to get you by.

    I hope this helps.
  • edited August 2010
    Hmm, which cities you will visit? Actually the average English level is not good in China, even in those most popular cities like Xian, Yunnan, Tibet, ect. Foreign people always complain that they could not find a traditional local restaurant for meal because of the language barriers. So,, of course it is always better to have a tour guide with you.

    And if you are doing a tour on your own or the tour guide will have limited time to serve you, it is suggested to ask them to help you in details before saying goodbye to each other, like writting down in Chinese the name, address of the places you are going to, the suggestion where to go in each city, something like that.

    Also, the younger people have better level than the old one, you will find many university students walking around on the down towm street or near the schools, you can try to ask for some questions, they will help you if they can:)

    Hoping this will help you.
  • edited August 2010
    Generally you won't have any problem traveling in major China cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu etc. But if you travel to rural area of China, it will be very hard since very likely no one speaks English in the area. If you plan to visit these areas, make some preparation before you go, such as how to get from one place to another, where you want to go, write the name down in a piece of paper in Chinese so locals will know how to help you. Most Chinese are very friendly and willing to offer their help, so just be kind and language barrier won't be much problem to your travel.
  • edited 7:03PM
    Don't worry about the language. For most big cities, you can always find english signs to tell tourists what to see and where to go. If you travel to small towns in rural area of China, you may need tour guide or travel with tour company.
  • I am afraid that in China the most westerners may experienced the cultural shock and language problems, unless you stay at some certain areas like Sanlitun of Beijing, Xintiandi of Shanghai, Yangshuo town near Guilin, Lijiang ancient town, etc. Most of Chinese have quite poor command of English, especially word of mouth. It is recommended to hire an English speaking guide if you don't have friends there.
  • edited September 2010
    Thanks... I'm still a little nervous, but he says we've got a kick-ass translator so it should be fine I guess.
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