What’s considered intelligent…

Went for a massage with a friend because we were feeling sore after trampolining.  Yes I said trampolining, but that’s not the point of the story because there’s nothing illogical about that.

At the start of the massage I raised my head out from the little hole in the massage bed to scratch my chin, and was met with ‘怎么了? ‘  what’s wrong?

And I said 我就。。。痒。  I just ….itch.

And she’s replies.  ‘Wow 中文这么好。’ wow this Chinese is of THIS level.   But meaning to say that it’s pretty good.

And I was thinking…hang on, I know that 痒 yang = to itch, or tickle (yes it’s the same word in Chinese, pretty funny considering it has a big difference in English)

I know that this word isn’t learnt by many beginners, nor is it even the word that intermediate speakers of a language know because they don’t need it in their daily lives, but for you to judge my entire Chinese speaking ability on 3 words….that’s pretty impressive.
Impressively naive/ stupid I mean.

She then proceeded to talk to me… and I’m sorry… but please just concentrate on the massage,  but err anyway…..proceeded to talk to me, and quoting the recent news… about the tiger (read about it here, opens in a new page), and defending the woman that stepped out of her car because her husband was driving too slowly. (after which point a tiger came out and took her away)
The massage lady said, well yeah I think she thought she had enough time.
No. that’s a really shit excuse.
Well anyway, then she quoted some sort of Chinese poem, or extended 成语, (idiom) to explain the Chinese stance…
and I’m like… ‘I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean’ after she prodded me and asked ‘你明白吗? ’   do you understand?

No. I don’t.

To which she replied ‘什么都不知道‘ wow you don’t know anything.’

And later in the conversation, ‘there’s so many things you don’t know’

Really?   Really? I’m speaking your language, talking about recent events, for which you apparently admitted before (albeit rather naively) that you thought my Chinese level was decent, and now you’re quoting ancient Chinese poems to back up your shit-for-brains reasoning of why the husband driving the car was doing the wrong thing…. And you have the audacity to say… ‘you really don’t know a lot’

Lady, wtf is wrong with you?

The ancient Chinese poems by the way are a normal thing. Once you really get into Chinese language learning, you’re expected to know some Chinese poems. They’re meant to teach morality and reasoning, and lessons to be learned, just like we have in English and any other culture.  But the difference is that in Chinese there are thousands of them. Same with idioms- hundreds of them.  And if you want to seem like you’re intelligent in China, you don’t show it by how rationally and logically you can prove your point; you show it by working one or more of these ancient poems, or idioms into your story. A retelling of what someone already said is considered intelligent.

Of course we do that in English too, a retelling of a quote at just the right time IS intelligent, however when it is a large basis of one’s culture…something feels slightly wrong there.

Also learning about all these things in school is a convenient way to shift focus away from learning about modern history… history that China obviously isn’t too proud of, and onto history from hundreds of years ago and the ‘lessons’ learnt from them.

I have heard before the message that they sometimes play on long distance buses as a public announcement of sorts, to ‘remember to compliment foreigners on their Chinese’
It was something like this, I heard that they do that before I heard it myself, and then even when I DID hear it myself I was unsure if I actually understood it correctly.
Basically the reasoning as I understand it, is that they want foreigners to study Chinese and the government acknowledges that it IS a difficult language to learn, but if they’re discouraged by people constantly not understanding them, then will stop studying… and it will affect China negatively somehow.

But many Chinese people often have this ‘wall’ of incomprehension, where they just don’t WANT to understand you. So if they can understand you enough, they will begin working in things that are more and more native until you eventually can’t understand them unless you’re Chinese. People you’ve just met seem to do that a lot.

When that happens in OUR home countries, and we’re talking to a non-native speaker, WE don’t do that; because we know that it will discourage the person from improving their language ability. And, moreover…it’s just rude.
But for the Chinese you have to remember that there is an overall sense of ethnocentricity from the general populous, so proving that they are better that you, (yes it sounds stupid) a native speaker of the language is better than a non-native speaker) in the comparison of who can speak that particular language … is one way to show superiority; whether it’s done consciously or subconsciously.

My show of intelligence; ie combining rational and logical thinking into wit; was what silenced her though.
So that keeps me happy.

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