Language Blunders Part 1


Great story— it reminded me of a temporary look of horror that my Japanese host mother had flash across her face when we were talking one day when I was just starting out with Japanese. “Can you say that part again?”, she gently asked. When I repeated myself, she was visibly relieved and the conversation resumed.

I had an inkling as to what had happened, but I never did figure out what the offending word was. At the time, it was obvious that asking her (there was a group of people at the table) what she thought I had said, would have made for an awkward moment.

Anyway, I liked this blogger’s takeaway from the incident. We give toddlers the benefit of the doubt all the time, we should be kind to adult learners!

Originally posted on spahrknotes:

In an instant, my reputation as a mother shattered in the eyes of our ayi.

I’ve finally begun Mandarin lessons. This past week, I learned the word for juice. I sat at the kitchen table with my tutor and made a mental note that it sounded similar to the English word for juice.

Fast-forward one hour. I took the leftover apple cider out of the fridge to give to my kids and thought it might be fun for ayi to try some. I poured a small glass and offered it to her, saying in my slowly deliberate Mandarin, “This is apple juice,” which I hoped would be close enough to “cider” and she could figure it out from there.

And here begins our conversation, in which I became a terrible mother.

Note: This all happened in Mandarin, aside from my thoughts, and ayi’s Mandarin has been paraphrased for the reader’s…

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Okay tones


Get your Mandarin tones right, okay?  :):)

Originally posted on Tanya's Stories:

As promised, while I’m no longer in China, I still want to talk about Chinese! Today I’m tackling something that scares many foreigners learning Chinese – the tones.

In a tonal language, part of a syllable’s sound is the intonation with which it is spoken. So a syllable pronounced with a falling tone means something different to the exact same syllable pronounced with a rising tone. In the case of one particular syllable in Mandarin, that difference changes a common surname to an offensive swear word! So as you see, the tone isn’t an optional extra – it is part of the sound itself.

Speaking Chinese without tones is akin to gibberish – it just will not be understood. Plenty of people live in China for years and continue to struggle with tones. My tones are quite good overall but I still mess up more than I’d like to admit!

Believe it or not, of…

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New English Calligraphy

Originally posted on MyColle -Michael's Collection-:

What is like to write English with Chinese calligraphy? It was a question I had imagined when I was really young. I remember I drew many ugly Chinese characters on papers. Now, there is a Chinese artist that provide a perfect solution for writing English in Chinese calligraphy. Let’s see what these characters are:

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Thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg’s Mandarin Interview


nicely put

Originally posted on Adventuring Towards . . .:

Okay, so recently my internet has been going crazy over this interview that Mark Zuckerberg did at Tsinghua University in Beijing, in Chinese.  (I say “my internet” because I’m sure that there are people who have not heard about this, but when you know as many Chinese language learners as I do, it’s unavoidable.)  Reactions ranged from the clickbait headline “Of Course Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Fluent Mandarin” (courtesy of Mashable, so no surprise) to the much harsher “Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin Like a Seven-Year-Old”.  My feelings are . . . mixed.

When I first watched the video, I’m not gonna lie – I cringed a bit.  It’s probably easier for us foreign language learners to understand bad Chinese because we remember the not-so-distant past when we sounded exactly like that (“What, tones are a thing?”), but it’s also more grating because it’s like a reminder of our own imperfections…

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Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin in Bejing….kinda


Mark Zuckerberg recently busted out his nascent Mandarin skills at a Tsinghua University event in Beijing. As someone who wishes more Westerners would at least “have a go” at Mandarin, I personally think it’s pretty cool that he boldly tried to go beyond the typical “大家好” which, as the blog post below quite accurately points out, would have been more than sufficient to earn him a wild round of applause from the audience.

Surviving public speaking as a beginner is a *huge* barrier to success for adult learners, and a big reason many people never start. As part of his motivation is tied to speaking with his mother in law, I’m sure this won’t be the end of the “Mark Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin” story— I’ll look forward to seeing where he takes this in the next few years. Kudos!

“In summary, for such an influential figure to step out and have a go at speaking the world’s most spoken (by number of native speakers) language, in one of the world’s most influential countries, is indeed a noteworthy occurrence, and a good piece of public relations on the part of Zuckerberg. It shows not only his outlook towards a country who still bars his company from its market, but also a great example of senior leaders accepting the fact that the world does not in fact revolve around English.”

Originally posted on The Ganbei Chronicles:

Major media outlets have recently be publicizing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent  trip to China, where he spoke at Bejing’s TsingHua university. The main reason for all the hype I will address in a moment, but first a few thoughts.

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Nybooks article: India After English?

Are the tides turning on the fortunes of English in India?  The paragraph below is an excerpt from an interesting article posted on the New York Review of Books—definitely worth a read!

A decade or more ago, the publishers of English newspapers scorned Indian language readers, assuming that, as hundreds of millions more Indians became literate, they would turn automatically into consumers of English papers. But the steady rise in literacy rates—from 64.8 percent of the population in 2001 to 73 percent in 2011—has had unexpected consequences. The new middle class is increasingly found in smaller towns, and prefers to read in its own regional language, rather than English. Meanwhile, major media houses have discovered that English readership is declining or stagnant, and that advertising rates in English papers cannot be pushed much higher. Along with an influx of politicians from non-elite backgrounds and the growing importance of regional and state-level politics, these developments have begun to challenge the assumption that English is the default medium of Indian public life. By putting more energy into regional languages, said Ravi Dhariwal, the chief executive of Bennett Coleman, “We’re just adapting to the way our country is changing.”