The Most Embarrassing Moment while I Speak Chinese
National Tsing-Hua University-Alvarez Charles Conceicao 

I don’t write Chinese but speak foreign language!

I have been in Taiwan for more than a year now though, to give background - inspiration that got me most motivated about the "beautiful island of Taiwan "Ilha Formosa” as it was called by the Portuguese before. It is not the language in particular but the technology and its development and  usage for competitive advantage gains in various fields of specialities, thus in order to be able to meet and overcome the challenges ahead of me in the future especially in business and technological environment profitable, intersecting business and interesting new technologies together. For that matter, therefore, I was strongly committed to pursuing an IMBA program in Technology Management at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan, philanthropies by the TaiwanICDF. The package offers a range of disciplines and experiences with case-study-driven tools, in areas of science, business, technology and management fields which provide extensible knowledge that can be applied to lead technological and organisational change in business and Information Technology environment in my beloved country, The Gambia, and to maintain and strengthen the brotherly relationship with its valued ally, Taiwan.  Although, understanding Chinese Mandarin like most international languages makes a big difference in my life too, because I can communicate with many people across different boundaries around the world, and to enhance and contribute in international cooperation development for sustainable development for the people and my country, international business and commerce, new venture capital opportunities and innovation with innovative creativity and strategies, as well as to achieve the most out of every business and technological market situation. Speaking Chinese, I can communicate with one of the world's largest language populations, social networking.  It is good business  as Taiwan is becoming an increasingly important factor in the business, politics and technology, so will opportunities to work in Taiwan and China, for a Taiwanese and Chinese venture, or in a Taiwanese-related field.  For some of these jobs, speaking Chinese Mandarin will be a required skill while for international students in Taiwan speaking Chinese Mandarin will give us a competitive advantage in securing a position or promotion over others who do not have the ability.   I believe that the technology has a knack of arranging things around us and help to improve and limit communication barriers found in trade, and international business and commerce. 

However, as much as I like to listening and speaking languages (including English which I speak fluently, little French, German, and less Spanish and Chinese Mandarin), African states has gained recognition of more than 1,500 languages (estimate) spoken in several major linguistic families among which are obscure languages that have yet to be classified. Several of them are whistled or drummed to communicate over long distances. Therefore, in this light, no one may doubt the linguistic skill capabilities of African descendants because of the high linguistic diversity widely used for inter-ethnic communication across various borders as just as in Asia. Chinese Mandarin, which is the official language of Taiwan, spoken in China, Hong Kong, and Macau, it is also among the official languages of Singapore, and it is referred to as Guoyu (國語) "the national language" in Taiwan while in China Putonghua (普通話), meaning "common speech”.  Hence Mandarin is the medium of language exchange notoriously used in grater Asia, it has became popular in most trans-cultural language exchanges and in different environments recently, it is most simplified by the use of the official romanization Hanyu pinyin as a pronunciation guide to make it friendlier amongst communicators in various fields including trade and other businesses.  I would great appreciate any effort to improve on my reading and writing skills and ability which I found hard at times because of its nature although learning a new language can be challenging, but with repetition and practical exercise it becomes easier and more fun, even embarrassing too.  I do believe that “practice makes perfect” and with a good beat of strategy in place, whether it is via patient tutors, friendly approaches to course modules, service assistance, partner or couple, or software, it may be fast and easy, and even fun and rewarding.  I think the best way to master any language is to learn it like a child (listen, repeat and speak).



So is speaking Chinese Mandarin hard or can it be embarrassing at times?


打擾一下 Dǎrǎo yixià; 麻煩您一下, Máfan nǐ yíxià. Wǒ bú huì shuō hànyǔ.  The first question any thoughtful person might ask is, "Is it hard, motivative or embarrassing for new learners?” A reasonable question though, after all, Chinese people seem to communicate just fine unlike foreign learners.  I would totally agree that Chinese Mandarin would not have been hard enough to master within the shortest possible time like other international languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch) do with tone free challenges even though it help in increasing globalization in emerging markets in Africa and Latin America, it is essential to get feel of the Chinese-Taiwanese cultures and traditions, and the Chinese Mandarin language for business communications in Asia and its allies markets as the Chinese and Taiwan economy is booming and is opening up to the Western mode of free trade and capitalism, even though, Chinese Mandarin pronunciation which is mostly phonetic is difficult to master within a shortest possible time as complications may arise from its tones stress. It requires dedication and motivation though, learning to speak and understand Chinese is easy, but writing and pronounce it accurately would be the harder part.  There's no faster way to master Chinese Mandarin within two – four years because it has totally no connection with English, French, Italian or Spanish. The characters itself has more than 3000 kinds of it and each has its own meaning. Combining characters will form another meaning. Therefore, I often found it hard to learn the sounds of the language, and the correct placement of stress on the some of the tones (all five tones must be followed for proper pronunciation), such as the third tone ( ǎ ) whose sound is the most difficult part of the task I have been confronted with most times.  After I realised that for the third tone ( ǎ ), middle to low to high, dipping - if at the end of a sentence or before a pause, it is then followed by a rising pitch (Note: standard pedagogy teaches this tone as a falling), then slightly rising intonation. Not to mind this! I learned to pronounce the third tone as a very low, slightly falling intonation, because if I try to raise the pitch toward the end of it, not only will I sound funny when pronouncing a third tone in the middle of a series of other tones, I may also end up sounding like I’m pronouncing the syllable as second tone (á) (low to middle, rising - pronounced like the end of a question phrase (What?)).  


And by far, we all had one of those embarrassing weird moments speaking the language because tonal language may look weird unlike mnemonics as it's one of the aspects that most Westerners are notoriously not good at too.  However, I tried continuous reading practices on pinyin in order to improve my speaking ability when I’m in the class not knowing that I was gaining nothing much hence I had no one better to practice speaking with as much as I like the beauty characters I was first attracted to because of the writing system, which is surely one of the most fascinating scripts in the world, even though complex, mysterious, but ridiculous by imagination, I tried and tried until one day second year I got astonish tell-off by Lǎoshī () unconsciously for mentioning a statement wrongfully, imperfect pronunciation!  And I felt so embarrassed due to the fact that I hate being told off in such a manner and since then I drop the class because I felt shy to get back to the class without letting anyone know the reasons why not even my friend because I was hurt inside. Although I am still looking for a one-to-one Chinese tutor for any help, I love the Chinese Language. I believe every person who tackles Chinese Mandarin at first has a little trouble believing this aspect of the language. I wonder also how is it possible that shùxué means “mathematics” while shūxuě means “blood transfusion”, or that “guǒjiàng” means "fruit paste” while “guòjiǎng means" means “you flatter me”? (Third tone problem mentioned earlier). Since then, I experience few other embarrassments most often I tried to help myself communicate or try to associate myself using my own initiatives with what I heard people say or have read hence I hate to see the little Chinese I know go worst. For example, asking a lady for friendship, Nǐ yuànyì zuò wǒ de nán péngyǒu ma, instead of, Nǐ yuànyì zuò wǒ de nǚ péngyǒu ma?  She told me she is not man in shyness. Another incident, when I got sick and I needed a doctor (Wǒ shēngbìng le gen wǒ xūyào yīshēng), told the customer services what happened and I sent to the wrong department where I join the queue for about an hour, then I realised I was sent to the department when I reach the nurse.


But even though it’s the most difficult part in my experience I am improving my ability to speak mandarin using Pinyin-English dictionaries. I believe it’s necessary to deploy technological and language software translator to cater to wide variety of clientele around the globe interested in hospitality, banking, insurance, export import, stock market and agriculture and much more. Thus, there is a growing need to break the linguistic barriers by applying technology in order to make use of English to Mandarin translation tools. This is considered as a long term investment which is cost effective as well as exact and aids to new ventures too.


Thank you. 

 謝謝。 Xièxie. 


Alvarez Charles Conceicao

Charles Conceicao Alvarez