You speak good Chinese! I don’t think so.
A reader sent me a link to Ash Henson’s video from the Outlier Linguistics site related to themes I’ve already covered here, such as the art of beautification in China and the implicit. Ash explains that when you are told, “You speak Chinese well! “the remark probably means that your level of Chinese is not good, or that it is good for a foreigner. More than one foreigner, after coming up with even a few wobbly sentences, is rewarded with such a compliment. Is this statement, which may seem provocative, relevant? Yes! You are being hoisted very high, but be careful, you have to put it in a cultural context, see the article.
Yes, you speak good Chinese!
I also saw the “You speak good Chinese! “when you speak rather well but hesitate about a word or when you use an inappropriate word. The interlocutor will help you find the right word, correct you, and avoid putting you in an uncomfortable situation or making you lose face with your immense knowledge of Chinese, he or she will be able to add that you speak good Chinese.
You speak badly!
You will always find examples that will go in the opposite direction of course. When I was a student in Taiwan, an angry taxi driver told me that I spoke badly for someone living in Taipei for a year. It made me laugh; it changed the endless praise of politeness.
So when do you think you’re gonna get a good grade? Some reactions give the right indication:
When you’re asked if you grew up in China or Taiwan ( Ash studied in Taiwan ) or have been in the country for 20 years.
When a delivery man or taxi driver to whom you explained a hard-to-find address over the phone says: “I thought you were Chinese! ».
When someone asks you if you are Chinese even if you have non-Asian features (Yes, it happens! Anything can happen in China).
12 August 2020