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most embarrassing moment while learning Chinese


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This only tells me how difficult Chinese could be if you do not understand all the nuances of the language! Augh!

What exactly are you refering to? If you're talking about the difference between comrade 同志 tongzhi and co-worker 同事 tongshi, then they are two completely different words with different pronounciations. If you're talking about the list of words with the pronounciation tongzhi that you provided, all those words' meanings are different enough to not be easily misunderstood. Do you really think your comrade 同志 is going to think you're calling him a child 童稚? I personally have never even heard of the word 童稚 until now. A child is usually refer to as 孩子 or 小孩.

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  • 1 month later...
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  • 5 weeks later...

I didn't have really embarassing moments in China. Once I used 京城 for capital, and my language partner laughed at me and then told me that was really wenyanwen, and that I should use 首都.

Back in Holland I once said something like 她妈去了中国, meaning to say her mother went to China, which gave my language partner here quite a laugh. One must be very careful with saying 'his/her mother', it easily comes out wrong...

I also got a little brother, always said 我最小的弟弟 at first, but apparently if it's clear from the context you can just use 小弟弟.

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  • 5 months later...

i had a similar experience.................

well after hearing this, you will feel better and less embarassed! well one day me and my cusin was havin lunch at the canteen, we weren't sure if the word "tongzhi" could still be used, as we know it was a word used in China ages ago, so we decided to ask some girls in the canteen! so my cusin went up to 4 girls(mandarin speaker) and said " excuse me tongzhi where is the toilet?" in mandarin............well i guess the reaction was not what we expected!! well one of them burst out laughing, one neally got chocked on some food, one was saying "cant you see we are eating, dont talk like that!", and one had food bursting out of her mouth!!!! well i hope after hearing this story you would feel better!

KYU :oops::oops:

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Tongzhi was first adopted to refer homosexual by a scholar, Chow Wah Shan (周華山). The word immediately got popular in hk and taiwan, and now mainland china. I don't know if the communist feel offensive on that anyway.

I also got an embarassing moment when i was just graduated.

I made a phone to Taiwan news office, telling them i was the assistant editor from Hong Kong and would like to clarify some points.

"Ni hao, Wo shi xianggang de zhuli pianzi. (助理騙子, assistant cheater..)"

The air was dead suddenly. A big splash of laugh came. My taiwanese colleague said loudly, WOW! A Hong Kong Assistant Cheater phoned us!!!

pian zi = 騙子 (cheater)

bian ji = 編輯 (editor)

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HAHAHAH, these are some GREAT stories, guys! Keep 'em coming! My Chinese is still limited enough that I don't know enough words to be able to make the mistakes you guys have made, but I'm sure as I learn more they'll happen more.

The closest thing I have to anything like this is...for a long time when I went to a Chinese restaurant, I would order "yi4 bei1 shui4" instead of "yi4 bei1 shui3". I always got funny looks, and they brought me water. It wasn't until a couple months later that I realized I had apparently been ordering a glass of "sleep" (or something else, being that there are a bazillion homonyms in Chinese). I kept picturing all the people in the kitchen scraping little bits of 'sleep' (a coloquial term) from the corners of their eyes and putting them in a glass for me....BLEH!!!

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In my first couple of months in China, I once approached a group of taxi drivers whilst waving a 50 yuan note, and I was trying to say

"Wo zhi you wu shi yuan" (I only have 50 yuan) because I was worried they couldn't change such a large note. But I forgot the word for "only" and said "zongshi" instead - I was waving the note in front of one guy in particular for a couple of minutes saying "Wo zongshi you 50 yuan" -

"I always have 50 yuan".

He didn't give me a ride.

Soon after that, I was leaving a nightclub one night and a female taxi driver approached me and said "KalaOK? KalaOK?", pointing at her taxi. "What? Er, Yes. The colour is OK!" I replied, and when she asked me again I think I said it was a nice shade of red. Anyway, I got in the taxi with her, and I was most confused when she wouldn't go the way I asked her to. The penny dropped when she stopped outside this seedy kind of club..............

I didn't go in, of course!

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  • 6 months later...

Complicated freudian slip and mainland/Taiwan differences:

I was on a blind date with someone who was hotter than I could ever imagine myself dating, he said he was taking me to see the cherry blossoms on 陽明山. As he pulled up on his motorbike my gaze turned from the large ad for an insurance company across the street, I looked at him, looking so incredibly attractive on his bike, and asked "有沒有帶另外一頂保險套, I I I mean 安全套, no wait, um, I mean 安全帽."

I spent the next five minutes apologizing profousely while he just kept cracking up.

This topped my previous linguistic gaffe, which was when I was trying to strike up a conversation with a group of people at a bar, the bar had installed a game called 沙狐, the rules of which were written on a big poster posted next to the game. In my slickest accent I could muster I asked "hey, 你們想不想打一局傻瓜?" They busted out laughing, but we played a game anyway and had a good time.

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I had a rather embarassing moment on the first day of my stay at my girl friend's house. Her mother asked me how I liked the 稀饭, and I wanted to tell her that I liked it, just had to get used to eating something this liquid with chopsticks. I ended up telling her, with a broad smile, that it was very 难吃. Luckily, my girl friend was sitting next to me at the moment and took care of the situation. I only learned about it much later...

Another one, not really a language mistake, but embarassing it sure was... Again over the dinner table, this time at a friend's house, whose family had been so good to invite me to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. They asked me how do you like this dish, and this one, and this one...

After having used 不错 way to often, I decided to use some synonyms (didn't want them to realize how simple my Chinese really is...), and opted for good old 好. Got a little mixed up, though, because the words that in the end came out of my mouth were 这个也很不好!

Of course smiling big time while saying it. Luckily, I realized it immediately and started apologizing while they were still decoding my interpretation of 四声.

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When my family first came to China someone gave my sister the Chinese name, "他妈的." Whenever someone asked her name she'd proudly answer, "F**k you."

Someone tried somthing like that with me too, telling me to have the Chinese name, "一朵花." Which as it turned out to mean something like, "virgin" (?? I forgot what it meant exactly, does anyone know?)

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When I met the family of my Chinese fiancee for the first time, I asked them, who was laoda 老大 (the boss!) in their family.

They said the father was 老大 in the family.

At that point I turned to the mother and asked, "And you are 老 who?"

Well, little did I know at that point that laohu 老虎 (tiger) was NOT a good name to call your fiancee's mother!

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A friend's colleague had borrowed his VCR machine. He urgently needed it back and so, he called her. Unfortunately she was out and he got her non-English speaking husband. He tried to explain the situation.


"Your eggpant borrowed my VCR"

Husband hung up immediately, convinced for life that all foreigners are terminally deranged!

茄子 qie2 zi = eggplant, aubergine

妻子 qi1 zi = wife

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  • 5 months later...

I knew there would be one of these threads, haha. :mrgreen:

Okay I read some of these posts and they are pretty funny, but I got one for ya!

I have had so far four different embarrassing situations, but this story is the most... about a year ago: I was taking my friend (born in Sichuan) to the airport in Atlanta from my university to go to NY and I met two of her friends, one from Shenyang, and the other from Taiwan I think, anyway, I was listening to their conversation and was trying to follow along, and add some input. Well, I wanted to start my own conversation with someone and take advantage of this opportunity to practice, you know?

So I looked at the girl from Shenyang (who had very nice hair) and I thought to myself "I am going to say 我真的喜欢你的头发" Then I thought to myself: "ahhh 头发 sounds kinda like 豆腐...don't say that don't say that don't say that" so here I go...

“哎!(jesus, please don't say that) 我真的喜欢你的豆腐!” :x

...oh...that was not smart....needless to say our conversation did not go very far

Luckily, they just laughed and I quickly corrected myself after nearly crapping my pants...

in case peeps don't know, 豆腐 is slang for "breasts" ... i don't think i need to explain that one any further...


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