Confessions of a Chinese Language Student

Chinese is a really difficult and frustrating language to learn, but it always helps to laugh at yourself to get you through the process.

My confessions 我的自白:

Injuries

  • I have, in frustration, banged my head against my Chinese textbooks.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve ruined my eyesight by staring at Chinese characters for too long.
  • I once got frost nip on my toes from studying for too long in my unheated Chinese apartment.

Tones

  • If you ask me for a “beizi” and there is a cup 杯子 bēizi and a blanket 被子 bèizi on the table, I won’t know which one to give you.
  • When I’m sick, I ask my friends to bring me soup 汤 tāng, but they always bring me candy 糖 táng instead and then tell me I should eat something healthier.
  • One time I told a friend we would have camels feet at my wedding but when I said 骆蹄 脚 luòtí jiǎo, he heard nude photos 裸体照 luǒtǐzhào. I think he was disappointed when I clarified.

Spoonerisms

  • About 80% of the time I tell people I like to eat bees 蜜蜂 mìfēng on my mántou 馒头, but what I really mean is honey 蜂蜜 fēngmì.
  • Sometimes when I say I want to eat pineapple 菠萝bōluó, I really mean carrots (radish) 萝卜 luóbo. My husband always buys both for me just in case.
  • I once ordered a butt 屁股pìgu in a restaurant but I really wanted a pineapple beer 果啤guǒpí. The waiter got angry.

Characters

  • I’m proud to write my characters like an elementary school student. I think my writing is neat and clear. I can’t read what Chinese people write.
  • I feel both relieved and frustrated when Chinese people forget how to write a character. Relieved because even Chinese people think their language is hard too, but frustrated because if Chinese people can’t remember how to write the characters what hope do I have?
  • When people draw a character on my hand, I really have no idea what character they are writing but I usually pretend that I do.
  • I learned how to read Chinese characters by text messaging on my cell phone. Same with Pinying.

Measure words

I once had a test on measure words and filled in half the blanks with 个gè.

For example: 一____公园

My Chinese boyfriend said I was right “一个公园,” my Chinese teacher said I was wrong “一座公园.” I told my Chinese teacher people didn’t really talk like that but he didn’t change my grade.

Random

  • I often tell Chinese people their language is stupid.
  • I speak to my pets in Chinese even when no one else is around.
  • I think Chinese is sexy.
  • I sometimes let people assume that I don’t speak Chinese just so I can listen to what they have to say about me.
  • I can understand it when other foreigners speak Chinese even if Chinese people can’t.
  • Sometimes when people ask me what I ate, I insult them bastard 混蛋 húndàn instead of saying wonton soup 馄饨 húndún.
  • My Chinese teachers never taught in English. They made fun of my Chinese so I made fun of their English, they never used English in class again.
  • Chinese has ruined my English. I now say weird things in English like “uncomfortable” 不太舒服 bùtài shūfu when I’m sick and “eating” medicine 吃药chīyào.
  • I want to crawl under a rock/cry/punch someone when I speak Chinese to Chinese person and he/she replies back “I’m sorry I don’t speak English.”
  • I reply in Chinese when people speak English to me and I don’t even realize it.
  • If I don’t understand something, I will ask for clarification, but if I still don’t understand the second time, I’ll pretend that I do just to save face.
  • My classmate once told me the best way to learn Chinese was to get a Chinese boyfriend. It turns out it really is the best way.
  • Through the process of learning Chinese in China, I’ve become a master of charades.