If you’re studying Chinese, someone’s bound to have asked you to “say something in Chinese”. This request has magic power: it is capable of making you forget any Chinese you know for 3-5 seconds, or just long enough for the person asking you to believe that you can’t actually speak Chinese. Is there any question out there that’s more annoying for Chinese learners?
But what should you say when someone asks you to “say something in Chinese”? I’ve heard this phrase quite a lot (but less than “your Chinese is awesome!“), and over the course of time, I’ve come up with a few strategies that make this situation easier:
Wǒ gēn yīgè shǎzi shuōhuà, tā gēnběn bùzhī dào wǒ zài shuō shénme.
I’m talking to an idiot and he doesn’t know what I’m saying.
Wèn wǒ zhège wèntí de rén shìgè èrbǎiwǔ.
The person asking me this question is an idiot.
Use this strategy with caution. Since usually, after hearing your Chinese, the person will ask you what you just said, which will force you to think up a “creative translation” of your fighting words. Plus it’s mean. I’ve only really used this with friends. (Read more about why 250 means idiot in Chinese.)
Dazzle them with tones
All you have to say is:
Māmā màle mǎkè de mǎ ma?
Did mom scold Mark’s horse?
You’ll have the average non-chinese speaker reeling. I like this one because even a beginner can learn it, and it makes Chinese seem impossible, which–since you can speak it–must mean you are a genius.
Similar to the “mother/horse” sentence, but on a slightly higher level. This works best if you know your tongue twister well. My favorite is:
Chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pír, bù chī pútáo dào tǔ pútáo pír.
Eats grapes and doesn’t spit out grape skins; doesn’t eat grapes yet spits out grape skins.
Yòng Zhōngwén shuō yī jù huà.
Say something in Chinese.
This phrase turns the game back onto them. Some alternatives include asking what you should say in Chinese:
Yòng Zhōngwén shuō shénme?
What should I say in Chinese?
Be a showoff
Normally, it’s rare for someone to ask for you to showoff, but this question actually gives you the chance to showoff your skills (or that one phrase you practiced 10,000 times). And remember, regardless of what you say in Chinese, they’ll be amazed. Even if you mess up, they’ll still believe that Chinese is the hardest thing ever.
What do you say when someone asks you what to say in Chinese?
This post was inspired by this comment on Sinoglot