- November
Posted By : talkingofchinese
VIDEO: speaking Chinese (very badly)

One of the hardest things for me about learning Chinese is getting over the fear/embarrassment of sounding like an idiot.

I find that when I try to use my (very rudimentary) Chinese with native speakers they tend to react one of three ways:

  1. Laugh. I don’t think this is meant to be as discouraging as it sometimes feels. I think a lot of the time people are just surprised.
  2. Give (way over the top) compliments which, while encouraging, are not in any way reflective of my actual ability.
  3. Seem to not “hear”. By this I mean that their expectation to hear English come out of my mouth somehow combines with my very poor Mandarin to create something completely unintelligible.

I have to keep reminding myself of the fact that Chinese is heavily reliant on context to be understood and that this, combined with my poor pronunciation, limited vocabulary and imperfect grammar, means the more I say the more likely it is that some of what I say will be understood.

Even when the initial reaction is not always encouraging I have found that if I persevere it almost always gets better and I walk away feeling motivated (even if I have to guess 90% of the words the other person said in response!)

So, please be nice – I know I have a long way to go but I hope to one day be able to look back on this video like an adult might look back at a video of their first steps and feel proud that the wobbly baby got back up off its butt countless times so that they would be able to walk as they do today.

Note: some astute viewers may note that I refer to my fiance as my husband in the video. It’s just easier and for all intents and purposes we are married, we just haven’t got around to signing the paperwork.

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  • Pretty good! You are totally understandable 🙂 And don’t worry about the 3 reactions, they will always happen. Still today, after years of being in China, and being completely fluent in Chinese, sometimes I have to deal with people that just can’t believe a foreigner can speak Chinese, so their brain turns off and they are unable to understand me… (I noticed they are getting less and less, though, as Chinese-speaking foreigners are quite common nowadays).

  • You are braver than I am! Go, Cat! (I would compliment you, but I have no idea how you sound. Other than less angry than my mother-in-law.)

  • Your pronunciation is not just okay… it’s very good. Kevin Rudd would be most impressed !! Good luck and best wishes to the both of you 🙂

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