The Most Embarrassing Moment While I Speak Chinese
National Chengchi University-Josue Daniel Herrera Mayen 

Ah! The enigmatic and mysterious Chinese language, they said that it has been around for a while more than three thousand years, the exact time no one knows for sure, but what is for sure is that it came to stay. But then again is it fair to call Chinese language only to mandarin? Well as fair as calling America just to the United States.

 

China’s continental proportions has allowed her to be the cradle of many different languages which were reunited around the more systematic and in my opinion more beautiful script developed by mankind, is this script the one that properly deserves the name of Chinese Language (distinction which is crystal clear in Chinese since Guoyu-國語 or Putonghua-普通話are the names of the prestige dialect and Zhongwen-中文 is properly used mostly in the context of literature and other written language expressions).

 

It is this fascinating script and the traditional tones of spoken Chinese (fortunately only four in Mandarin) that cause headaches to foreigners venturing into the universe of Chinese culture, I still remember my proverbial Lao3shu3zao1 老鼠糟 (rotten mouse) that little by little improved (if I might say so) to Lao3shi1zao1 老師糟 (rotten teacher) and after diligent correction by my poor teacher at least got to be an intelligible Lao3shi1zao3 老師早 (good morning teacher).

 

If there is one profession that should be better rewarded in Taiwan that is the noble profession of the mandarin teachers, especially after considering all the crazy things that those professionals must listen and read every single day. Some of their stories are almost urban legends like the student saying  -lao3shi1wo3xiang3qin1wen3ni3-老師我想親吻你 (professor I would like to kiss you) instead of -lao3shi1qing3wen4- 老師請問 (professor I would like to ask a question), or wo3zai4gao1xiong2chuang2shang4ren4shi4ta1-我在高雄床上認識她(I met her in bed at Kaohsiong) instead of wo3zai4gao1xiong2chuan2shang4ren4shi4ta1-我在高雄船上認識她 (I met her in the ferry at Kaohsiong).

 

Our mistakes are not limited to oral expression, I remember that one friend of mine wrote 我妓妓很可愛 instead of 我姑姑很可愛, (if you don’t understand why is funny? Go pick your dictionary you lazy boy!). This problem as I see it could be easily solved if the teachers and mostly the students just spent some more time working on the radicals, with adequate radical knowledge it is obvious that the phonetic elements and have very different sounds although they look kind of similar.

Taiwanese people usually takes our mistakes with humor and not even the owner of the dumpling store gets mad when some random boy goes there and ask –lao3ban3niang2shui4jiao4duo1shao3qian2- 老闆娘睡覺多少錢, (and instead of asking for dumplings ends asking quite an offensive question) and no one laughs at your face when you say that you like to “do” TV instead of watch TV (this one is specially common on Spanish speakers), finally a piece of advice to Spanish speakers if possible try to avoid the world “lámpara” (lamp for those who don’t speak Spanish, we understand guys, no one is perfect), that word kind of sounds like a not very polite expression in Taiwanese (I won’t say what does that word mean in Taiwanese so pick your Taiwanese-English dictionary AKA any random Taiwanese friend and find by yourself).

 

I heard that in China there is one Canadian guy doing traditional Chinese Cross Talk-相聲 for a living, that would be my golden dream, but then again I still have quite a bit to improve till that day comes, for now I have to continue learning (while destroying the Chinese language) but if Jacky Chang did it, why I could not. Wait a minute….dang! That guy is Chinese as well.