The Most Embarrassing Moment while I Speak Chinese
National Taiwan Normal University-Andrea Moscoso



I have to be honest… I think that there is more than one embarrassing moment while I speak Chinese, and I also believe that I am not the only one who had experiences alike. In that sense I would like to share with you something that happens to me almost all the time and I consider this as part of my learning process in a non-formal environment and I hope it will give you some idea about how to learn Chinese or any other language.

When I came to Taiwan the first time, as some of you, I couldn’t speak any single word in Chinese… I just thought that it will be interesting to arrive in this country and give myself little bit of what I call “surprising effect”.  By that time I was living in Ping Tung, place located in the south of the island. In that place most of the people are aboriginal, which means that they can speak Chinese but I a daily bases they speak Taiwanese, Hakka or other local dialects; which means that only few of them can speak English. At the beginning, body language was the only way of communication, but later on I was able to repeat some phrases or words that my coworkers and friends use to say. After that, I was curious about the tones and new vocabulary so I started asking “How can I say this? Or that?” and it worked out well for me. In summary I was creating my own way of learning the language. At the end of one year I was very proud of myself and I realized that, in fact I could speak and communicate in Chinese.

The second year of my stay in Taiwan, I moved to the capital: Taipei; and there was the time when the problems started… In Taipei most of the foreign people are studying Chinese and most of them can speak a Chinese that is grammatically correct. On the other hand, most of the people living in Taipei cannot speak aboriginal dialects but English. So… as you can see the communication is pretty easier. Since I was already able to speak some Chinese I didn’t feel that ashamed to talk but... I didn’t realize that the language I learned was something like a mixture of words in Chinese, Taiwanese, Slang, and even in English.  Therefore, every time I speak “MY Chinese” people can’t understand me or otherwise they laugh on me.  A lot of people usually tell me “You speak Chinese with the Ping Tung accent”. However, when I actually started studying the language in a formal school I realized that what I had learned was useful and although wasn’t as correct as I thought it helped me to understand better the language, the culture, and people… It actually helped me to reach more and closer local friends…

I believe that I improved my Mandarin Chinese but I also…love to go back to Ping Tung and speak my Ping Tung Chinese. You can see the difference between learning Chinese first and then move to the environment and start from the environment and move to the formal education… Now you choose!!!