I spent a semester studying Mandarin and international communication at Nanjing University. Living in Nanjing was a great experience for me, and being able to interact with Chinese people on a daily basis vastly improved my language skills. While my experience in the classroom was valuable for learning how to write characters, I found myself learning a lot more about the language from my Chinese friends I made during the semester. I put together a guide to colloquial Mandarin I picked up and sent it to a few friends, calling it "A Laowai's Guide to Chinese." This could be useful if you are trying to teach yourself Chinese or are learning from abroad and want to be able to sound more local. So here is a compressed, 10 word version, of "A Laowai's Guide to Chinese."

English Word 

Chinese Textbook   Colloquial Term
  Hello/Hi/Hey   Ni hao   Hei / Wèi? (Answering the phone or getting someones attention)
What's up?     Ni chi le ma?   Ganma? / Shenme shi?
Great!     Hen hao!   Tai bang le!
I also think...    Wo ye …   wo tong yi / Jiu shi (online/text you can say “9494”)
But     Dan shi   Ke shi
Not bad    Hao  bu cuo
I'm busy   Wo mang  wo you shi

These are informal and should (generally) just be used amongst friends. While not by any means an exhausting list, you can impress Chinese people, especially if you respond to a text with "9494!"

The author is a Kansas native, currently working in Suzhou, China. He can be found on Twitter @bryanspe.