Hello to the Skritter community! I’ve been lurking behind the scenes for the past half year, proofreading and translating entries in the skritter database. Now that Christopher and Gabriel are on board to handle the back end vocabulary linguistics work, I’ll be doing some guest blogging on a variety of topics related to learning Chinese.
A little background info first - I’ve studied Chinese for three and a half years. The first year was at Oberlin College and the second two were in China where I was teaching English at the Shanxi Agricultural University. Now I’m living back in Oberlin where I’m an ESL teacher (for Chinese high school students) by day and a heavy Skritter/Chinesepod user by night.
The challenge of 谦虚: learning to be a humble Chinese language student
To kick off the series of posts, I’d like to discuss humbleness in Chinese culture and how that affects the Chinese language learner. The roots of humbleness go way back in Chinese culture to Confucius. In China today being humble is still an encouraged and expected behaviour. Chinese people are taught to be 谦虚 (humble) and to avoid 吹牛 (lit. blowing the cow, meaning to brag). Chinese school children all learn the saying by Chairman Mao, “谦虚使人进步，骄傲使人落后” (Being humble makes people improve, and being arrogant causes one to fall behind).
During my time in China sometimes even the smallest conversations brought me face to face with the issue of being humble. Take for example a conversation at a bubble tea stand. I start it off: “I’d like a cup of bubble tea, please”. The seller responds, “Your Chinese is great!”. I have two choices now of how to reply. I could say, “Thanks!”, or I could say something humble like “No, actually my Chinese is very bad”. The danger with the “thanks!” response is that you run the risk of seeming too proud. I’ve found that the other choice is often met with a “Wow, you’re humble too!” comment, or at least a smile which probably means that the person is satisfied with my humbleness.
I remember one time I made the mistake of 吹牛 when I invited a couple of friends over for dinner at my house the night before I left for a vacation. I had “daizou-ed” (带走) a bunch of food from a restaurant near my house and prepared a goodbye meal. Towards the end of the meal when we were all past the point of being stuffed but still going strong my Chinese friends started to give me compliments, “You are a great friend to prepare all of this food for us! You are really are a generous guy!” All of a sudden a grammar pattern from language school popped into my mind and I spurted it out without thinking twice: “这到也是” (a slangy way of saying - this is true, I agree with you). My friends burst into laughter. They were expecting me to be humble and refute their praise but instead I had come off as a jerk with no sense of what is an appropriate response to compliments. Those friends and I remembered my faux pas fondly, often joking about it during the following year.
Compliments fly when foreigners speak Chinese in China. You need to be equipped with a set of humble ways to deflect those compliments. So for all of you Chinese speaking skritter users out there, what do you do in the face of a compliment about your language ability from a Chinese person? Do you have any embarrassing stories to share about forgetting to be humble in China?
Saturday, March 6, 2010
- ► 2012 (44)
- ► 2011 (59)
- 中文版的猫和老鼠 (zhōngwén bǎn de māohélǎoshǔ) Tom and Jer...
- Practice Lists And Sections
- Wacom Store is Up!
- Removing Japanese Sounds
- Forming a 重金属乐队 (zhòngjīnshǔ yuèduì, Heavy Metal B...
- Wacoms a'comin'
- The challenge of 谦虚: learning to be a humble Chine...
- Japanese Sounds Courtesy of Smart.fm
- Active Pinyin Practice, France
- Payment System Up; What's Next
- ▼ March (10)
- ► 2009 (91)