One of the challenges I faced learning Chinese was the way Chinese expresses things so much differently from English, my native language. An example is 不好意思 which means shy. But say I’m walking up the escalator in the Taipei MRT and somebody is standing on the left; the custom is to stand on the right. I could say, 不好意思, asking them to let me pass. If someone held the elevator door open for me so I could get in, 不好意思, thanks. If I’m at a restaurant talking with my friend and the waiter wants to serve the food, he could say 不好意思, I’m going to bother you. My friend helped me so I give him a gift: 小意思. He asks me to donate at least a little money, a token, to his fund: 意思意思. I find out that even though he makes five times as much as me, he wants me to donate to fund his vacation in Sanya: 你好意思!I see the waiter staggering in, carrying two 25 kg bags of rice: 辛苦, literally, spicy bitter.

Also, for me, I had to get used to having no tenses, no plurals, and a different way of using vocabulary. English splits words down to fine meanings; Chinese connects words with similar meanings.

But it’s great fun. 加油!

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