The Most Embarrassing Moment while I Speak Chinese
National Tsing Hua University- Adrian Garcia

A couple of months ago during my first semester studying in Taiwan, I encountered myself in a really embarrassing situation when I was trying to buy a cake in a bakery located in the city of Hsinchu.

It all began on a Tuesday night, which by the way I felt really tired because of the midterm’s exams and the weekly tests of the mandarin course I was taking at the moment. I and two other Latin-American friends, also studying in Hsinchu, went to downtown to celebrate the birthday of another friend in a nice restaurant.

Before we left from Tsing-Hua campus, we agreed to stop by in a bakery of Hsinchu downtown to buy a birthday cake for our friend. We wanted to give her a delicious chocolate cake, being that her favorite flavor. We took the bus to downtown and when we arrived to the bus stop near the restaurant we started walking in direction to the bakery, when suddenly my two friends were distracted in another store. I decided to continue walking and go ahead to buy the cake while they were in the other store.

When I finally got to the bakery I started looking in the display counter the cakes they had, but I couldn't see any chocolate cake, so I called the selling lady from the counter and I decided to take the opportunity of practicing my Chinese skills (which at that point of the semester should have been good enough to order a chocolate cake) to buy the cake. So I asked the lady: "Nǐ yào bùyào chocolai? (你要不要CHOCOLAI), while pointing to the cakes. She stared at me trying to understand what I was trying to say, since nothing I just said made sense at all. So I tried repeating the same thing in Chinese again: "Nǐ yào bùyào chocolai” and adding the word "cake" at the end, because I couldn't remember the translation for the word cake at the moment.

She was still very confused, trying to figure out what I was trying to say and she was looking at me in a really funny way, and I actually didn’t know what else to say at that moment. After a few seconds I turned around and I saw my two friends staring at me, and they were also looking at me weird since they didn't know what I was trying to say to the cake seller.

Then I finally gave up and I told her in English what I wanted to order. She understood immediately when I said what I wanted in English, as well as my friends but I still hadn't realized what I was pronouncing wrong when I was speaking in Chinese. They quickly told me that what I was trying to say was in fact " Nǐ yǒu méiyǒu qiǎokèlì dàngāo?" (你有沒有巧克力蛋糕), and it suddenly hit me the mistake I was making, so we all started laughing. 

We finally bought the cake and went to the restaurant and my friends told the story to everyone else while we enjoyed a delicious dinner, and ever since that day all of my friends from Hsinchu always come up with jokes related to that day, like: “Wǒ yào Chocolai!”

Like I said at the beginning of the story, that day I was really tired so I easily confused the Chinese words yào ( - want) and yǒu (- have), as well as I created a new word for chocolate in the same sentence: “Chocolai”. I think after that moment I will never forget how to say chocolate cake in Chinese again.

And that has been my most embarrassing moment while speaking Chinese!