Embarrassing Mandarin Mistakes

Since Mandarin is a tonal language with many homonyms, it is easy to use the wrong tones and end up saying something unintended. Sometimes these unintended utterances can be quite embarrassing, but also very funny.

For example, a blogger called Tonggu Momma told her Mandarin teacher that she was chopping down a tree instead of reading a book (kǎnshù instead of kàn shū). And one day I asked a student what he’s eating, he responded with “屁股 pì gu”(shoud be 苹果 píng guǒ), quite embarrassing.

So here today we make a list of some common Chinese mistakes you better try to avoid:

  1. 你多大了?Nǐ duō dà le? 我21年了。Wǒ 21 nián le.(Correct:我21岁了。Wǒ 21 suì le.)
  2. 这是什么水果?Zhè shì shén me shuí guǒ? 这是十六。Zhè shì shí liù.(这是石榴。Zhè shì shí liu.)
  3. 这附近有王八吗?Zhè fù jìn yǒu wáng bā ma? 我想伤亡。Wǒ xiǎng shāng wáng. (这附近有网吧吗?我想上网。Zhè fù jìn yǒu wǎng ba ma? Wǒ xiǎng shàng wǎng.)
  4. 我在写论文,准备大便。Wǒ zài xiě lùn wén, zhǔn bèi dà biàn.(准备答辩 zhǔn bèi dá biàn)
  5. Talking to an very old woman, 老婆,我来帮你吧。Lǎo pó, wǒ lái bāng nǐ ba.(老婆婆 lǎo pó po)
  6. 我快二死了。Wǒ kuài èr sǐ le.(我快饿死了。Wǒ kuài è sǐ le.)
  7. 你们的国家主食是谁?Nǐ men de guó jiā zhǔ shí shì shuí?(主席 zhǔ xí)
  8. 我的腰扭了,我的排骨疼。Wǒ de yāo niǔ le, wǒ de pái gǔ téng.(肋骨疼 lèi gǔ téng)
  9. 衣服把我洗了。Yī fu bǎ wǒ xǐ le.(我把衣服洗了。Wǒ bǎ yī fu xǐ le.)
  10. 我有两辆车,新的你开,老的我开。Wǒ yǒu liǎng liàng chē, xīn de nǐ kāi, lǎo de wǒ kāi.(旧的我开 jiù de wǒ kāi)

What Chinese mistakes have you made before? Share with us here, you’ll have the cover of anonymity to unburden your embarrassment, and your mistakes will help other students avoid the same errors.

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