Mastering Directions in Chinese Successfully

How do you say: Directions in Chinese

Directions in Chinese: Essential Language Tips for Asking Directions Confidently

Whether you’re planning a trip to China, diving into the language, or looking to expand your Mandarin abilities, getting good at giving and following directions in Chinese is essential. Without these fundamental skills, it’s easy to get turned around while exploring this mesmerizing country.

But with the right navigational phrases at your command, you can travel China’s bustling streets smoothly and soak up all they have to offer. Understanding keywords like north, south, east, and west in Chinese – as well as other handy terms – unlocks new levels of independence and enjoyment.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to mastering directions in Chinese. We’ll provide the most vital vocabulary and phrases in a clear, conversational style that aims to make learning quick and enjoyable.

So pack your bags, brush up your Mandarin, and let’s unravel the secrets of asking and giving directions in Chinese. With the language tools we provide, you’ll be navigating China’s incredible cities confidently in no time.

Mastering Cardinal Directions in Chinese

Whether you’re zigzagging the Great Wall, strolling through Shanghai’s bustling streets, or navigating the complex subway lines in Beijing, knowing your cardinal directions is key. Let’s unlock the mysteries of the compass points in Chinese.

Remember, directions in Chinese are as follows:

  • North (北 Běi)
  • South (南 Nán)
  • East (东 Dōng)
  • West (西 Xī)

To say ‘northeast,’ ‘southeast,’ ‘southwest,’ and ‘northwest,’ you simply combine the relevant cardinal Mandarin directions:

  • Northeast (东北 Dōngběi)
  • Southeast (东南 Dōngnán)
  • Southwest (西南 Xīnán)
  • Northwest (西北 Xīběi)

However, it’s important to note that in China, these directions are actually kind of backward. While in the English-speaking world we use phrases like ‘north’ and ‘south’, and we lead with them (‘south’east or ‘north’west), China uses the terms the other way around.

So you’re technically saying ‘eastsouth’ or ‘westnorth’. Just something to bear in mind to help with your learning process.

Now, imagine the following scenarios:

  1. Suppose you’re lost in a massive metropolis like Shanghai and need to find your way back to the hotel.
  2. You’re visiting the Great Wall, and your friend wants to meet halfway, but you’re unsure which direction to start walking.
  3. There’s a local street market in the east, but you can’t quite comprehend the street signs. 
  4. You’re trying to book a DiDi (essentially Chinese Uber), and you can practice speaking with the driver about the directions in Chinese .

In each of these cases, knowing your cardinal directions Chinese terms can significantly enhance your travel experience, not to mention your language skills. It makes you more self-reliant and provides a lively, experiential way to practice your Mandarin. 

Just remember, practice makes perfect, so keep using these directions whenever you can, be it in daily conversation or in your thought process. With consistent use, these phrases will become second nature.

Chinese Map Vocabulary: Mastering Cardinal and Intercardinal Directions in Mandarin

Navigating your way through the diverse landscapes of China or simple city exploration becomes significantly easier, almost like a fun challenge, once you’ve mastered the cardinal and intercardinal directions in Chinese.

Chinese Map Vocabulary: Mastering Cardinal and Intercardinal Directions in Mandarin

directions-in-chinese-couple-looking-at-map

Navigating your way through the diverse landscapes of China or simple city exploration becomes significantly easier, almost like a fun challenge, once you’ve mastered the cardinal and intercardinal directions in Chinese.

Chinese Cardinal Directions (主要方向)

The cardinal directions, or zhǔyào fāngxiàng, are the four primary directions. Here are the key phrases:

  • East (东 – Dōng): The city of Shanghai is located in the east of China – “上海在中国的边。”(Shànghǎi zài zhōngguó de dōng biān.)
  • South (南 – Nán): The weather in the south is quite warm – “南部的天气很温暖。”(Nánbù de tiānqì hěn wēnnuǎn.)
  • West (西 – Xī): The sun sets in the west – “太阳在西边落下。”(Tàiyáng zài biān luòxià.)
  • North (北 – Běi): Beijing is situated in the north of China – “北京位于中国的部。”(Běijīng wèiyú zhōngguó de běibù.)

Intercardinal (Intermediate) Directions (中间方向)

The intercardinal or intermediate directions, known as zhōngjiān fāngxiàng, combine the cardinal directions. Check out these phrases:

  • Southeast (东南 – Dōngnán): Fujian province is located to the southeast of China – “福建省在中国的东南边。”(Fújiàn shěng zài zhōngguó de dōngnán biān.)
  • Northeast (东北 – Dōngběi): The northeast region is known for its heavy snowfall – “东北地方的雪下得很大。” (Dōngběi dìfāng de xuě xià de hěn dà.)
  • Southwest (西南 – Xīnán): The city of Chengdu is in the southwest – “成都在中国的西南部。”(Chéngdū zài xībù de xīnán bù.)

Northwest (西北 – Xīběi): The northwest area of China is known for its deserts – “西北部是沙漠地区。” (Xīběi bù shì shāmò dìqū.)

Navigating the Road – Key Position Words and Phrases

As you continue your journey in learning Chinese directions, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with essential position words and phrases – they play a significant role in your ability to navigate and communicate efficiently.

Let’s dive in!

Essential Position Words – Left and Right in Chinese

  • Front (前 – Qián): The entrance to the subway is in the front of the building – “地铁入口在大楼的面。”(Dìtiě rùkǒu zài dàlóu de qiánmiàn.)
  • Back (后 – Hòu): The cashier is located at the back of the store – “收银台在商店的面。”(Shōuyíntá zài shāngdiàn de hòumiàn.)
  • Up (上 – Shàng): Her office is upstairs – “她的办公室在楼。”(Tā de bàngōngshì zài lóu shàng.)
  • Down (下 – Xià): The storage room is downstairs – “储藏室在楼。”(Chǔcángshì zài lóu xià.)
  • Left (左 – Zuǒ): Turn left at the intersection – “在路口往拐。”(Zài lùkǒu wǎng zuǒ guǎi.)
  • Right (右 – Yòu): The restaurant is on your right side – “餐厅在你的边。”(Cāntīng zài nǐ de yòubiān.)
  • Inside (里 – Lǐ): The meeting is taking place inside the conference room – “会议在会议室进行。”(Huìyì zài huìyì shì jìnxíng.)
  • Outside (外 – Wài): The taxi is waiting outside the hotel – “出租车在旅馆面等。”(Chūzū chē zài lǚguǎn wàimiàn děng.)

Direction in Chinese with References

  • Next to (旁边 – Pángbiān): The pharmacy is next to the bank – “药房在银行的旁边。”(Yàofáng zài yínháng de pángbiān.)
  • Across the road from (马路对面 – Mǎlù duìmiàn): The bus stop is across the road from the department store – “公交车站在百货公司马路对面。”(Gōngjiāo chēzhàn zài bǎihuò gōngsī mǎlù duìmiàn.)

Knowing these key position words and phrases significantly bolsters your ability to navigate and understand directions with ease. 

Combining these terms with the previously discussed cardinal and intercardinal directions will give you a solid foundation to build upon as you continue to develop your Mandarin skills. 

Key Landmarks and Vocabulary in Chinese

A top-down view of Shanghai, China at night to help students to learn directions in Chinese

Whether you’re traversing through bustling cityscapes or casually exploring new places, understanding the terminology for common landmarks in Chinese can make your journeys both easier and more enjoyable.

In the City

  • Airport (机场 – Jīchǎng): The airport is 20 kilometers away from the city center – “机场离市中心20公里。” (Jīchǎng lí shì zhōngxīn 20 gōnglǐ.)
  • Railway Station (火车站 – Huǒchē zhàn): I need to go to the railway station – “我需要去火车站。”(Wǒ xūyào qù huǒchē zhàn.)
  • Subway (地铁 – Dìtiě): The subway is the easiest way to get around the city – “地铁是城市交通最容易的方式。” (Dìtiě shì chéngshì jiāotōng zuì róngyì de fāngshì.)
  • Downtown (市中心 – Shì zhōngxīn): We can meet downtown at the café – “我们可以在市中心的咖啡馆见面。”(Wǒmen kěyǐ zài shì zhōngxīn de kāfēi guǎn jiàn miàn.)
  • Hospital (医院 – Yīyuàn): The hospital is three blocks away from here – “医院离这里有三站路。” (Yīyuàn lí zhèlǐ yǒu sānzhàn lù.)

On the Road

  • Traffic Light (红绿灯 – Hónglǜdēng): Wait for the traffic light to turn green – “请等待红绿灯变成绿色。”(Qǐng děngdài hónglǜdēng biànchéng lǜ sè.)
  • Intersection (路口 – lùkǒu): Take a left at the next intersection – “在下一个路口左转。”(Zài xià yígè lùkǒu zuǒ zhuǎn.)
  • Crosswalk (斑马线 – Bānmǎ xiàn): Use the crosswalk when crossing the street – “过马路时使用斑马线。”(Guò mǎlù shí shǐyòng bānmǎ xiàn.)
  • Overpass (立交桥 – Lìjiāo qiáo): The overpass reduces traffic congestion – “立交桥减少了交通堵塞。” (Lìjiāo qiáo jiǎnshǎo le jiāotōng dǔsè.)

In a Building

  • Main Gate (大门 – Dàmén): Meet me at the main gate – “在大门见我。”(Zài dàmén jiàn wǒ.)
  • Elevator (电梯 – Diàntī): Take the elevator to the fifth floor – “乘电梯上五楼。”(Chéng diàntī shàng wǔ lóu.)
  • Stairs (楼梯 – Lóutī): The stairs are on your right – “楼梯在你的右边。” (Lóutī zài nǐ de yòu biān.)
  • Restroom (洗手间 – Xǐshǒujiān): The restroom is at the end of the hall – “洗手间在走廊的尽头。” (Xǐshǒujiān zài zǒuláng de jìntóu.)

Phrases for Asking Directions in Chinese

Being able to ask for directions confidently is a key skill when navigating in unfamiliar areas. Here are some commonly used question patterns in Chinese:

  1. …在哪? (…Zài nǎ? – Where is…?): This expression is used when you know the name of your destination but don’t know where it is. The term “…在哪” is a direct translation of “Where is…” in English. For example: 火车站在哪? (Huǒchē zhàn zài nǎ? – Where is the railway station?)
  2. 去……怎么走? (Qù… zěnme zǒu? – How do I get to…?): This phrase is used when you specifically want to know the directions to get somewhere. For example: 去机场怎么走? (Qù jīchǎng zěnme zǒu? – How do I get to the airport?)
  3. …离这儿有多远? (…lí zhè’er yǒu duōyuǎn? – How far is… from here?): When you want to know the distance from your current spot to your destination, you’d use this phrase. For example: 北京奥林匹克公园离这儿有多远? ( běijīng àolínpǐkè gōngyuán lí zhè’er yǒu duōyuǎn? – How far is the Olympic park from here?)

When asking for directions, you might want to precede your question with 请问 (Qǐng wèn), which means “May I ask” or “Excuse me.” 

It’s a polite way to start a conversation with a stranger and show respect for the person you’re talking to. For instance: 请问,地铁站在哪? (Qǐng wèn, dìtiě zhàn zài nǎ? – Excuse me, where is the subway station?)

Remember that practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to speak out and ask for directions! Online classes can also provide great opportunities to practice with other like-minded people.

Phrases for Giving Directions in Chinese

If you’re called upon to give directions while in China, knowing how to properly instruct someone in Chinese can be very helpful. Here are key phrases you should know:

  • 向前走 (Xiàng qián zǒu) – This means “Go straight”. For instance, “向前走两个街区。” (Xiàng qián zǒu liǎng gè jiēqū.) means “Go straight for two blocks.”
  • 左拐 (Zuǒ guǎi) / 右拐 (Yòu guǎi) – These phrases mean “Turn left” and “Turn right” respectively. For example, “在光明大街左拐。” (Zài guāngmíng dàjiē zuǒ guǎi.) means “Turn left on Bright Street.”
  • 在……的时候 (Zài… de shíhou) – This expression translates to “at the…”. For instance, “在十字路口的时候右拐。”(Zài shízì lùkǒu de shíhou yòu guǎi.) means “Turn right at the intersection.”
  • 往……走 (Wǎng… zǒu) – This term means “Go towards…” For instance, “往市中心走。” (Wǎng shì zhōngxīn zǒu.) means “Go towards the city center.”

An example of giving directions could be: “向前走三个街区,然后在十字路口左转。” (Xiàng qián zǒu sān gè jiēqū, ránhòu zài shízì lùkǒu zuǒ zhuǎn.), which translates to “Go straight for three blocks, then turn left at the intersection.”

Remember, practicing these phrases will make you more comfortable and efficient in using them in real-life situations.

Bonus: Taxi Directions in Chinese

When traveling in China, you might need to take a taxi for transportation. Here are some tips for communicating with taxi drivers:

  1. Name your destination clearly: Speak the name and address of your desired destination in simple and clear Chinese. For instance, “请带我去人民广场。” (Qǐng dài wǒ qù Rénmín Guǎngchǎng.), which means “Please take me to People’s Square.”
  2. Use landmarks: If the driver is unfamiliar with the address, use a well-known landmark nearby. For example, “请带我去西单购物中心附近。” (Qǐng dài wǒ qù Xīdān gòuwù zhōngxīn fùjìn.), which translates to “Please take me near Xidan Shopping Center.”
  3. Speak slowly and repeat if necessary: Speak at a moderately slow pace and be prepared to repeat your destination for clarity.
  4. Keep the driver’s phone number: In case you need to call the driver for any reason, note down their number, which is located on the dashboard or displayed near the rear-view mirror.

Remember these tips for better communication with taxi drivers, and it will surely make your travels in China more convenient and enjoyable.

Conclusion

Mastering these vital Chinese phrases for navigating around town, asking for directions, giving directions, and communicating on a taxi ride can give you a confidence boost while exploring Chinese-speaking regions. 

These phrases aren’t just about knowing how to get from point A to point B, but they’re essentially small keys to unlock your immersive experience and connection with locals.

Ready to level up your Chinese language skills further?

Visit NewConcept Education or try a Free Class, where you can go from zero to fluent. 

With structured language training, you can deepen your understanding of Chinese culture and communicate more comfortably in various situations. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be handling directions like a native speaker!

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