Another attempt at Mandarin

I’ve told stories of my difficulties with learning and remembering the Chinese language before, and here is another funny and slightly embarrassing story of one of my experiences with speaking mandarin in China.

I have learnt many phrases and words that help me live a simple life in China. These phrases include giving directions, ordering food, telling kids to shut up, bargaining with money, and the important names for places like my street, the bar, the school or the mall. With all these words to remember, sometimes it’s easy to mix them up. For example, one time I meant to say “I want rice” (Wo yao nei fan) but it came out as “My name is rice” (Wo jiao nei fan) because I mixed up the one important word. I do this quite often, especially when I just say it in a moment of over-confidence, and it happened in a funny way the other day.

After grocery shopping the other day, I hailed a taxi to drive me back to my apartment. I got in and I meant to say my street name “Guong Huai Jiea” but “Hong Huit-sa, xie xie” escaped from my lips first. This is funny because many of the teachers here have given themselves Chinese names and my friend Kyle has a very interesting one. It’s pronounced Hong Huit-sa (no idea how to actually spell it) and it means “Red Beard” because Kyle is a ginger. So basically I said to the cab driver: “Take me to Red Beard, thank you!” He turned around and looked at me like I was a nut, and it took me 3 seconds to realize what I said and I started laughing. I gave him the proper name of my street and he just turned around and shook his head. I could almost hear his thoughts streaming “Crazy foreigner” as we drove towards my apartment. When I go travelling to other Chinese cities in 2 weeks, I’m definitely going to have one of my PA’s write key words like train station, airport, and hospital in chinese on a piece of paper for me, just incase my memory for mandarin continues to follow this path until I leave in May. 🙂


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