The Most Embarrassing Moment While I Speak Chinese
National Cheng Kung University- Gabriela E. Andrade Lam

Hello! My name is Gabriela Andrade Lam and I am from Ecuador, which is located in South America. I have been living in Taiwan for six months now, and studying at National Cheng Kung University. All my courses are given in English, and I am learning Chinese as part of my trainee in this culture. However, learning Chinese has been anything but difficult.

Before coming to Taiwan, I studied a brief course of Chinese in my country. Just two months, to learn how to say hello!, or ask for food. But when I arrived here, I realized that it wouldn’t be enough. Since my arrival until now, I have learned many words and expressions, but I still cannot keep a long conversation. It is a little bit disappointing.

I think the most embarrassing and disappointing moment was one day in the beginning of my stay here in Taiwan. A friend and I wanted to go to the night market, but we did not have bicycles, so we went by bus. We just went to the bus station and ask some girls (in English) about how to get there. We arrived there and stayed for about two hours, after which we wanted to take a bus again to go to our dorms. But what we didn’t know was that buses only work until 10 pm or something like that, and it was pretty much later! We had no money with us, so there was only one option: go back on foot. But the big problem was that we had no idea which way we should take. At that time, in that area, there weren’t too many stores opened. There weren’t too many people on the street. So we decided to walk in the same direction that the bus when it came from the dorm. In the way, we found a drugstore and we stopped there to ask. There were two people, the pharmacist and an old lady. We asked them how to get to the dorm, if there was any bus that could take us, but they just looked at us and said “Wǒ tīng bù dǒng”, and also “Taxi”. We could just say “Wǒ méiyǒu qián” and nothing else… that was all we could say!! At that point, we were starting to get desperate. I think that the lady noticed it, so she called her son who was able to speak English. But it was for nothing… because he said that buses don’t work after 10, so we must find another way to go back.

We kept walking in the same direction. Each person we saw, we automatically asked, but nobody understood us! Finally, we got to a 7-11 convenient store. We thought that maybe people in there could speak English, but we were wrong. Fortunately, a French guy was there, and he helped us to find the right way. It was a relief, although it was a little bit far. After 15 more minutes walking, we got to Tainan Park, the first place we could recognize. After that, it was easy to go to the dorm. 

Chinese is not an easy language, specially for me, which mother tongue is Spanish. That’s why every day I face at least two embarrassing moments: when I ask for tea and people look at me with a face of “what are you saying?”, or when I ask how much I have to pay and people say a number in Chinese so fast, that I have to think about it 5 minutes before getting it. But I think I’m doing better… now I can understand better than before!