Not only is learning Chinese difficult for me, but it can also be difficult for a native speaker having to listen to a non-native butcher their language!
During the week, one of our teachers decided to play a game with us. Having split the class into two teams, she each gave us a piece of paper with two Chinese words that we have learnt since the beginning of the semester. We each had to explain what our two words were, without actually saying them.
Our poor teacher! One of the students would be saying a sentence and we would have to quickly raise our hand if we knew the word they were referring to. Our teacher would look at us with astonishment and ask ‘How did you know that was the word???’ She didn’t have a clue what some of the students were saying, but us foreigners did!
For Chinese people, they have learnt Chinese through tones…. so a lot of times when foreigners say something, Chinese people just don’t understand us, simply because our tones aren’t good enough. They rely very heavily on tones to get the meaning across.
Whereas with us during class, we weren’t listening as much to the tones, but to the overall sentence and what they were trying to say.
We have one student from France, and he has a very strong accent when he speaks in Chinese. There are times when he says something and I listen and think ‘God it sounds as if he just spoke French just now’. But when he said his sentence, the hands went straight up!
Our teacher, god love her…she didn’t have a clue what he said. We kept repeating ‘It’s a foreigner thing’. Each of us were speaking in Chinglish but we all managed to figure out what we were saying, and guess the correct word.
So I suppose that game made us realise that Chinese people won’t understand us a lot of times, but also how us foreigners can manage to get by with our Chinglish… even though it’s only to other foreigners! ha that is a lot of help!
I enjoyed the game though… and plus my team won!