The Most Embarrassing Moments while I Speak Chinese: 
Are you skinny, stinky or ugly? Iran or Yilan? Mexico or Moscow?
National Cheng Chi University-Daniel Guzman Briman 

According to many rankings Chinese language is one of the hardest for foreigners, especially for those who are not familiar with the tones and the particular sounds of it. When I first came to Taiwan I thought that Chinese was not that hard to learn; I thought that the hardest part will be writing and memorizing all of those complicated and unique characters that look like small drawings, but after my funny and “dangerous mistakes”, my perception has totally changed and now I “respect” Chinese conversation as well, and I even think that sometimes speaking Chinese can be harder than writing it. Well, let’s look at my most embarrassing moments while I speak Chinese:

Are you skinny, stinky or ugly? One of the most embarrassing moments while I speak Chinese is definitely the next one: I was sitting, eating with a huge group of Taiwanese friends in a restaurant full of people! One girl was talking about that she wants to lose her weight because she thinks she is very fat and that she started a diet already… So, I wanted to say: “But why? You are skinny, there is no need for you to be on a strict diet”. I wanted to practice my Chinese and also kind of show off my new vocabulary which I have learned that day in my Chinese class. So I said: (你很醜Nǐ hěn chǒu) which means “You are very ugly” instead of what I really wanted to say: (你很瘦Nǐ hěn shòu) which is “You are very skinny”. After saying this, everybody started to laugh and the girl looked at me in a bad way, I could tell she was angry… Then they explained me my mistake and I said “Sorry! I mean what I mean is that you are…” (…你很臭Nǐ hěn chòu) and I made another mistake again! Because this time instead of skinny, I told her she was very stinky! I felt so bad after such mistakes and as you can guess, now I am not a big fan of this 3 adjectives and I try to seldom use them!

Wow! Daniel, Did you bring us delicious bread from Iran? After my winter break (during which I traveled around all Taiwan with my classmate), I came back to NCCU and called my Taiwanese friends to enjoy some bread that I bought in the most famous bakery of Yilan (宜蘭Yilán), my friends said “真的?” in a “not normal over-excited way”, I did not understand such huge “weird” excitement, if they are Taiwanese so I guess they can buy that bread anytime they want to. When we met at the dorm’s cafeteria they looked so disappointed and started to smile and laugh… I did not understand such bizarre reactions coming from them. Why this kind of behavior? Well, instead of Yilan, I actually said Iran (伊朗Yīlǎng) to them when I talked to them on the phone!

  Mexico or Moscow? It was a boring evening as usual, I went to buy something to eat and I saw some of my Taiwanese friends with some foreigners as well and we started a random conversation. I do not remember what they asked me, but it was something about Russia; because my mom is from there… So, at some point of the conversation I told them “Moscow” (Mòsīkē) using my “correct and good Chinese” according to me…! Then I told them that I have not met people from Russia yet, and that it will be cool to meet at least someone from there. After maybe 15 minutes they told me they know some guys from there and that they were going to call them to join us for some drinks. When the guys finally came (Russian students, according to me) they started to speak perfect Spanish to me and I was so shocked and I told them: “Your Spanish is perfect, where did you guys learn it?” And everybody looked at me like I was crazy or like I just said something very stupid. Why? Because instead of Moscow, I actually said Mexico (墨西哥Mòxīgē) and kept saying it during the entire conversation!!! At that time I have been in Taipei only 3 months so I couldn’t tell the difference between “si/xi, ke/ge: Pinyin” and I made that huge and embarrassing mistake. After the incidence everybody just laughed and understood my mistake because I am a foreigner and they know my Chinese was at a very poor, beginner level but I felt so embarrassed, you guys can’t even imagine how!