Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chapter 44: Language Blunders - Part 1

So, I've made a few Chinese language blunders in the past 9 months.

Last week.
I told a female Chinese colleague in Chinese, "I like your shirt. It's very yellow."

When met with a shocked look and no other response, I mentally reviewed my statement. Finding nothing wrong with the tones or words, I said again, "I like yellow. Your shirt is a pretty color."

Once again, a surprised look, but this time, accompanied by an "Oh. Thank you."

Uncertain of my mistake, I continued up the stairs to teach my class, putting the whole incident behind me and forgetting it for the time being . . .

Monday morning. An American coworker comes to me in the hallway.
Coworker:  I need to talk to you. You have to be very careful in the way that you use the word "yellow" with a Chinese woman.

Me: Okay . . .

Coworker: Yes. Chinese colleague said that you liked that her shirt was yellow.

Me: Yes, I did. (Uncertain of where this is going)

Coworker: She wanted me to tell you  in China, evidently using the word "yellow" to refer to something about a woman means she is perverse and involved in some questionable activities including, but not limited to, pornography.

Me: shocked silence

Coworker: She figured you didn't mean that, though.

Me: (more silence) Yellow!? Are you serious?

O, language blunders. How fun you are in retrospect - not so while you are happening.


  1. I think you should write a prequel post about asking for the bill in German. ; )

  2. Haha :) Completely forgot about that, but I can definitely see it as a prequel in the making. . .

  3. Hahahahahaha!!!! Can I share this?


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