You Need Better Chinese to Get a Chinese Girlfriend

One student in class told me an awful experience of his which, I think, might happen to other Chinese learners.

This guy, an American born Chinese who are learning Chinese once visited his girlfriend’s parents’ house. His girlfriend is from Shanghai with all her family members native Chinese. After a pleasant meal, his future mother-in-law proudly showed him a calligraphy work done by herself. However, before he made any compliment he told her a truth which shocked everyone: “很难看(hěn nán kàn)” which means very ugly. His girlfriend was very angry indeed, not to mention her mother. But then they realized that was a funny mistake he had made as he was trying to say, “It’s very hard to read.” Therefore, after all of these he learned that to say “hard to read” one should use 很难看懂(hěn nán kàn dǒng), or even 看不懂(kàn bù dǒng).

Here is the same thing, to avoid ambiguity, “hard to hear” is not “难听(nán tīng)” but 听不清楚(tīng bù qīng chu)”, “difficult to eat” should not be “难吃(nán chī)” but “吃起来很困难(chī qǐ lái hěn kùn nan)”.

Misunderstanding in language sometimes causes tragedy. Hope this story could help as many people as possible.

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