Friday, 10 July 2009

Language Barrier in China

I would love to go to China one day. I’ve heard and read so much about this fascinating country – the good, the bad and the ugly.

But what’s holding me back is the language barrier.

Thanks to my parents who didn’t send me to Chinese school as well as my Peranakan background, my language skills in Mandarin is hopeless.

Cantonese I can handle, but I’m hopeless when it comes to Mandarin. I attended Mandarin classes a couple of years back, but gave up because writing Chinese characters is a mind boggling task especially for someone who has no foundation.

Many ang mohs return from China with fascinating travel stories and experiences. But they don’t look like the locals. So the locals don’t expect them to speak Mandarin.

In my case, I look like the locals and therefore they’ll be conversing with me in Mandarin wherever I go.

I can imagine myself saying, “Wo poo hueh chiang hua yee” (Translation: “I can’t speak Mandarin”) everywhere I go.

Ordering food and asking for directions would be a nightmare.

I asked my mum the other day:

Would it be easier to travel to a country where:
1) You look like the locals but can't speak the language, or
2) You don't look like the locals and can't speak the language.

My mum chose the second situation.


AudMraz said...

Hi Julie,

I prefer No. 2. Would rather go to a place where they know I'm surely an alien.

Even here in Malaysia I am most of the time mistaken for a Chinese, a Korean, even a Japanese (!!), so sometimes to save me the hassle of explaining I just nod and agree, and tell them I only speak English! Haha :P

Raymond said...

Don't go. The chinese r rude and loud. The place is dirty and disorganised.

Julie Lim said...


Weird how Malaysians can mistake you for a Chinese, Korean or Japanese!

When I was in Chiang Mai, many locals spoke to me in Thai the moment they see me. And I had to keep on telling them I'm Malaysian :-)

Julie Lim said...


My mum said the same thing when she went to Beijing couple of years back. But she said China's worth it for its magnificent landscape and colourful history. But must tahan its people and dirtyness lah.

Hey, how come your blog can't load properly?

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