So while traversing the streets of Beijing or Shanghai, you may find yourself in a situation when someone will ask you a question in Chinese. Being Chinese American, there were a lot of situations when I was first studying abroad when locals would come up and ask me something, and I would either have no idea what to say, no idea what they were asking, or both.
So the go-to phrase that everyone needs in their arsenal is:
Pinyin (i.e. the transcription of the Chinese words into Latin script): bu4 zhi1 dao4
Translation: I don’t know.
Trust me, it’s useful.
You can throw in a “dui4 bu qi3” (对不起）at the end too. It means “sorry.”
You know, just to demonstrate that you’re not a total jerk.
Here’s a pronunciation link to the whole phrase. Just click the little megaphone at the lower right of the box.