Catching an illness is a stressful experience, and having to navigate communication barriers in a foreign country makes it worse.
If you’re planning to travel or stay in China, it’s always best to have a handful of medical terms prepped for a rainy day.
You’ll never know when you might catch a virus or have to rush to a pharmacy for diarrhea medications. In emergency cases, being able to speak Chinese speeds up the process and ensures timely treatment is given.
This comprehensive guide covers essential Chinese medical terms for visiting your doctor.
We’ll explore the different aspects of seeking medical help using Mandarin Chinese - from booking appointments and calling an ambulance to describing common symptoms and illnesses.
Let’s dive right in!
Asking for medical help or attention in Chinese
The following are some basic phrases that are important to learn.
Whether you’re in an emergency or want to convey the message that you need medical assistance - these phrases can help.
Let’s look at examples using these terms in complete sentences.
We’ll start by learning how to ask for simple directions or guidance to get to a medical facility.
In the three examples above, you’ll only notice a slight difference between each one. Let’s break this down.
请问 (Qǐngwèn) translates to “May I please ask?”
This is a polite way to approach a stranger and ask a question or to ask for help. Meanwhile, the other repeating section, 在哪里 (zài nǎlǐ), translates to “where.”
The next step is to simply fill in the blanks with the place you need directions to: 请问 ___ 在哪里?
Another way you can ask someone to help you get medical attention is by using the following phrases.
How to say you’re sick in Chinese
Or you can also simply let the other person (be it a friend or stranger) know you’re sick.
我病了 (wǒ bìng le) is the most basic way to say “I’m sick” but if you’re talking to a friend or family member, the more casual and native-like way to say this is 我不舒服 (wǒ bù shū fu), which is more frequently used in spoken Chinese.
In response, they may say, 你应该去看医生 (nǐ yīnggāi qù kàn yīshēng), which means “You should go see a doctor.”
In that case, just use the phrase we learned above, 你能带我去看医生吗? (Nǐ néng dài wǒ qù kàn yīshēng ma?).
Making a doctor’s appointment
While some medical facilities accept walk-ins, some may require you to have an appointment booked beforehand.
If your case isn’t a medical emergency, you can also make an appointment to reduce waiting time at the doctor’s office.
Here are some phrases that might come in handy.
The other party may ask about your name, handphone number, or date of birth. Listen out for these phrases:
- 名字 (míngzì) - Name
- 电话号码 (diànhuà hàomǎ) - Phone number
- 出生日期 (chūshēng rìqí) - Date of birth
You can check out our guide on how to talk about days and dates in Mandarin Chinese.
Learning to read and tell the time in Mandarin Chinese will also be helpful when booking an appointment.
Describing your symptoms in Chinese
So, you’ve successfully made your way to the doctor. Here’s where things can get a little tricky.
You could use a mixture of gestures and words to get your message across. But learning to talk about your symptoms in Mandarin Chinese is the safest and most effective way to seek medical help.
Let’s explore how we can talk about body parts and describe common symptoms in Chinese.
Parts of the body in Mandarin Chinese
We’ll start off first by learning how to talk about various parts of the body.
|Stomach||胃 / 肚子||Wèi / Dùzi|
Combining the above terms with various symptoms below may help explain the situation better to your healthcare provider.
Here are some phrases you can use to describe the pain or discomfort related to a certain body part.
Here are examples of how to use the above table to describe the symptoms affecting a body part.
On a side note, you may hear people using 疼 (téng) in place of 痛 (tòng). Both these mean “painful” or “hurts” and can describe a specific body part in pain.
You can use them interchangeably, for instance, saying 我肚子疼 (wǒ dùzi téng) instead.
Some speakers feel that 疼 (téng) is more conversational and natural-sounding, but either will get your message across clearly.
Describing common symptoms and ailments
Next, we’ll learn to talk about some of the most common injuries, symptoms, and ailments.
|Runny nose||流鼻涕||Liú bítì|
|Sore throat||喉咙痛||Hóulóng tòng|
|Diarrhea||腹泻 / 拉肚子||Fùxiè / lādùzi|
|Shortness of breath||呼吸急促||Hūxī jícù|
To put these terms into complete sentences, you’ll typically add a 我 (wǒ) before each one.
我 translates to “I” or “me,” so you’re confirming that you’re the person experiencing those symptoms.
If you’ve brought someone else to see the doctor, you’ll use 他 (tā) instead. 他 translates to “he,” so the doctor understands that the other person (and not you) requires medical attention.
On a side note, 她 (tā) means “she.”
You’ll only need to differentiate both 他 and 她 in writing because both words are pronounced similarly in conversations.
Let’s put what we’ve learned into some example sentences.
Your doctor may then ask you how long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms. The question may go something along the lines of 多久了？(duōjiǔle), meaning “How long has it been?”
In this case, you’ll reply with either of the following:-
- 天 (tiān): Day
- 星期 (xīngqí): Week
- 月 (yuè): Month
So if it’s been a day, you’ll reply with 一天 (Yītiān), meaning “one day.”
You can check out our complete guide to Chinese numbers, which will be very useful here.
**Talking about the cause **
Explaining the cause of any injuries could help your doctor better recommend the next course of action.
For instance, if you fell down and injured your arm, you can say 我摔倒了 (wǒ shuāi dǎo le), meaning, “I fell down.”
Or, if you are visiting the hospital after being hit by a car, you could say 我被车撞了 (wǒ bèi chē zhuàngle), which translates to “I was hit by a car.”
Alternatively, you can say 我出车祸了 (wǒ chū chēhuòle), which means, “I was in a car accident.”
**Other important medical details **
Your doctor may ask if you have any allergies. This ensures you get a medication that’s safe for yourself.
The phrase to keep in mind is 药物过敏 (yàowù guòmǐn), which translates to “drug allergies.”
You’ll then reply with 有 (yǒu) for “Yes, I do.”
Alternatively, you’ll say 没有 (méiyǒu) for “No, I don’t.”
Your doctor may also want to know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
This could change their treatment recommendations and ensure the safety of your baby.
Here’s what you can say:
You may hear different terms used for breastfeeding. These include 哺乳 (bǔrǔ) and 喂奶 (wèinǎi).
Your prescription in Mandarin Chinese
Depending on where you’ve gone to get medical help, your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse may explain how you can take each medication.
Understanding how to take your medications correctly is critical. And we don’t want a communication barrier to hinder that. So, we’ll cover some common phrases used to talk about medications and medical regimens.
Again, you’ll need a basic understanding of Chinese numbers.
Feel free to check out our Chinese numbers guide.
In addition to Chinese numbers, here are some phrases you’ll likely hear.
- 药物 (yàowù): Medication
- 一粒 (yī lì): One tablet
- 一次 (yīcì): Once
- 饭后 (fàn hòu): After meal
- 饭前 (fàn qián): Before meal
Here’s an example of what you may hear when receiving your medications and instructions on how to use them.
Let’s break it down.
The first sentence uses the word 药 (yào), which means medication. Meanwhile, 感冒 (gǎnmào), which means “cold,” is used to specify the type of medication you’re receiving.
The second sentence comes in two parts. The first part contains 吃 (chī), which means “eat,” and 次 (cì), which refers to the frequency.
In this context, 一次 (yīcì) means “once a day,” 两次 is “twice a day,” 三次 means “three times a day,” and so on.
The second part of the sentence contains the phrase 每次 (měi cì), meaning “each time.”
Meanwhile, 粒 is a classifier for small, round things, like pills. The number of pills to take is specified by adding a number before 粒 (lì).
Your healthcare professional might not structure the instructions exactly like the example above, but listening out for these key phrases will help you identify what you need to know.
Here are some other common vocabulary terms you can keep an ear out for when discussing medications in Mandarin Chinese.
|Cold medication||感冒药||Gǎnmào yào|
|Headache medication||头痛药||Tóutòng yào|
|Anti-inflammatory medication||消炎药||Xiāoyán yào|
|Diarrhea medication||腹泻药||Fùxiè yào|
|Stomach medication||胃药||Wèi yào|
Last but not least, don’t forget to finish off your conversation by thanking your healthcare professional.
To thank someone in Mandarin Chinese, you can simply say 谢谢 (xièxiè).
Alternatively, you can say 谢谢你 (xièxiè nǐ) or 谢谢您 (xièxiè nín). 您 is used instead of 你 when you wish to show respect to someone elder.
Speaking to a doctor in Mandarin Chinese can be challenging.
Because we’re unlikely to use Chinese medical terms in our daily conversations, they can be harder to pick up.
But the last thing we want to deal with when we need medical attention is a communication barrier.
Smaller cities in China are less likely to have English-speaking hospitals or clinic staff. It’s always best to be prepared for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances when visiting a foreign country.
Try your best to arm yourself with these basic Chinese terms for seeing a doctor.
If need be, you can have some of these phrases recorded in your notebook or phone. They’ll come in handy whenever you wish to practice or when you’re at the doctor’s and need some extra help!
Know of any other important Chinese phrases to use when visiting the doctor?
Let us know in the comments below!