Fight to speak Chinese

Not physically fight, but rather verbally 😉

If you’re living abroad learning Chinese then you’ll find that a lot of people, especially the younger generation, will try to speak English at every opportunity when they see a westerner coming. If you went to the trouble of moving abroad to learn Chinese, then you’re likely a serious learner and also out to speak Chinese at every opportunity.

The result of this, is that you’ll sometimes end up in a language ‘battle to the death’ – whoever is first to encounter a word they don’t know in the opposition’s language subsequently loses and has to revert to their mother tongue to finish the conversation.

Stand your ground in this kind of situation and be careful not to back yourself into a corner by using overly complex words from the outset – remember, the aim is to stay in Chinese-mode for as long as possible!

In some situations no matter what you do, the other person will refuse to speak Chinese and insist on continuing in English, don’t get frustrated or angry, just finish the conversation and move on. Have you ever come across a similar situation?

5 responses to “Fight to speak Chinese

  1. You’re writing about this stuff too! I replied to your comment on Chit Chat Chinese before I clicked on your name. I’m happily subscribed now to what you are writing.

    In terms of hitting a hard word and then having to revert. I just wouldn’t. If people don’t want to give you the time of day and ‘refuse’ to speak English to you and do it all the time, I think keep up the one sided conversation. We can always do more listening, there’s lots of that to be had. Speaking well is one which is harder to do by yourself, although I’ve been doing more of it.

    The one-sider is good. And the other one to do is to compliment them in Chinese on their English early in the conversation before they have said that much. Chinese and Japanese people always do this one to me. I can imagine this one happening:

    You: ni de yingyu hen hao de
    Them: Thankyou, so why don’t you talk to me in English
    You: Yinwei zheli taiwan, ni yao shuo yingyu, qing qu dao yingguo haishi Aodaliya.
    Them: but i want to speak english
    You: tough love
    Them: what
    You: dan xin dan xin, ni hai xuexi ya, ni hui jiang shuo de hao ba

  2. Hi Dan,

    Cheers for the reply, I just read your post over on Chit Chat Chinese.
    So you are coming over to Taiwan to study, nice one – have you decided where in Taiwan to go – Taipei, Kaohsiung etc?
    I was also just chekcing out your video blog on did you record that in the uni computer lab or at work (going by all the imacs in the background)?


  3. Hi Dave,

    This is so true, I liked the way you put it! It’s even more difficult if you’re a beginner (like me), so I keep losing :/ I actually almost gave up on things like language exchange, and started looking for someone to be my ‘teacher’, i.e. I pay them for talking to me in Chinese. But no, people don’t want money, they keep asking to do language exchange!

    1. Hi Inga,
      Language exchange is actually also a great way to learn more, all you have to do is make sure you prepare some materials you want to go over before meeting your partner. I’ve spent lots of time doing language exchange over the last few years.
      Thanks for the link on your blog too, I have reciprocated in the footer section below 🙂


  4. Amazing article! Im currently living in China to improve my mandarin, and I fin it really annoying and disrespectful when I speak chinese someone and the person speaks to me in english (my matter tongue is portuguese), since that, in their mind all white people are the same.
    I just ask them: Why are you speaking to me in english? Why do you think all foreigner speak english? They usually reply: 我怕你听不东。中问说的很好, or maybe continue in english.
    Sometimes I tell them: “If you were in my country, and I speak to you in japanese because you are asian, will you like it?”
    I think will still take some time for them to understand that.
    Thanks and Good luck

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