Practising Your Chinese – The 5 Conversation Starters

If you have enrolled in Mandarin classes in Singapore, you may have an excellent grasp of the basics. This includes learning to read simple words, knowing how to form Mandarin sentences, and knowing how to write the basic characters. However, the ultimate test is to take your learning out of the classroom and to converse in Mandarin.

Making conversations with others in a different language can be difficult. For instance, making small talk is much more difficult when you are speaking in a foreign language. The only way to get better at this is through practice. Here are 5 conversation starters that you can use to practise your Chinese and improve.

1. Say “Hello”

If you are not sure of what to say, the best way to start a conversation is to say “Hello” in English. This is often a great way to start a conversation as it is friendly and simple, and it can open up a conversation between you and the other person.

You can also choose to follow up with “nĭ hăo” after saying “Hello”. Although “nĭ hăo” is more of a formal greeting, it is a great conversation starter that can lead to a meaningful conversation in Chinese.

2. “How Much Is It?”

“Duō shǎo qián” translates to “How much is it?” and it is an excellent conversation starter in Chinese. For instance, if someone comes up to you and tells you about something new that they have bought, you can ask them “How much is it?” and they would gladly let you know.

You can use this conversation starter for many different things, including phones, clothes, accessories, and others.

3. Talk About Food

If you are not sure how to go about starting a conversation, you can never go wrong with talking about food. When conversing in Chinese, you can start by asking “nǐ chī le ma?” which translates to “Have you eaten?” This way, the other person may start talking to you about what they have eaten for that day, and you can share yours too.

You could also ask “nǐ xǐ huān chī shén me?” which translates to “What do you like to eat?” This can lead to a conversation about sharing each other’s favourite food. If someone asks you, you can let them know about some of your favourite Chinese dishes too. This shows the other person that you are actively learning and that you have taken the time to experience the Chinese culture.

4. Ask Them To Recommend You Shows And Books

Everyone has different tastes in books and shows, especially when the other person is from a Chinese-speaking community.

If you wish to strike up a conversation or keep a conversation going, you can begin by asking if they have a favourite show or book to recommend. You can use their recommendation to learn more about the culture and understand why they might love it. You may also follow up by recommending your favourite shows or books.

5. Make Small Talk

The most basic small talk you can start with include asking the other person how they are doing, how they are holding up, and where they are going next.

In Chinese, you can use the phrase “zěn me yàng” to ask them “How are things?” and use “qù nǎ er” to ask “Where are you going?” It is a great way to show interest in where they are headed.


If you have learnt all the fundamentals from your Chinese course in Singapore, learning to converse in Chinese can help you to improve and speak it naturally with others. Now that you have a better understanding on conversation starters, you can start practising with your friends, teachers, classmates, and other Chinese-speaking natives.

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