Fake/(Real) Chinese

I’ve always wanted to fake people out like this:

(We’ve all got monolingual friends, and some of those might not know that we’re bilingual.)

At a gathering of friends who are monolingual and don’t know you can speak Chinese, announce that you can speak Chinese fluently.  It’s best if you’re with a crowd that wouldn’t suspect that you could do such a thing.

Then say something that to an English speaking monolingual person sounds like fake Chinese, but to a Chinese person sounds perfectly reasonable.  My best attempt (in a pseudo-Beijing-Opera voice):

经常上长城! (jīngcháng shàng chángchéng, Go to the Great Wall often!

“Fake” features are that it includes a variety of tones; all of the syllables end with “ng”; and it ends with 2 second tones in a row, which is very un-Western.  And it makes perfect sense in Chinese; it is a good piece of advice for any 好汉.

Then all the English speaking people start looking at the floor, trying to erase their association with you, in utter disbelief that you could be so culturally insensitive that you would make what basically qualifies as an ethnic joke.  But the Chinese people in the room (well, their presence would make it even more ideal, wouldn’t it?) start looking at you and giving you the universal sign of goodness (thumbs up).

What could be more fun that that?

(OK, readers, think up some better ones!)

12 responses to “Fake/(Real) Chinese”

  1. Most people say “Ching Chong” when they are imitating Chinese. Can we think of anything that makes sense to tell people that that means?

  2. A says:

    Man, non-speakers’ associations with the “ng” sound always bugged me. I’ve always felt that Mandarin comprises far more fricatives (“sh”, “x”, “z”, “zh”, “j”, “ch”, “q”) than nasalized Ns.

  3. R Dempsey says:

    to sing (Chinese opera) without make-up. 清唱

  4. It would also be interesting to know what stereotypical sounds native Chinese speakers think English has.

  5. A says:

    Oh yeah, what English sounds like from a Chinese perspective would be interesting. To get a good idea though you’d probably have to find someone who hadn’t learned any in school.

  6. I have noticed that Spanish speakers tend to focus on the “-ation” sounds of English. My Spanish name is Natán. Some of my Mexican friends like to call me “Natation”.

  7. Carl says:

    A good source for fake Chinese sounds is the recent SNL skit where they had “Hu Jintao” speaking to “Obama” about the national debt. It’s still on Hulu.com if you’re in America.

  8. Carl says:

    I wonder if “ching chong” might be fake Cantonese rather than fake Mandarin.

  9. -- says:

    Or you could say “In Chongqing, please flush” 在重庆,请冲. That one was us study abroad student’s dumbest joke.

  10. That trumps mine; the qing chong proximity is perfect. If it were a little more semantically normal and longer that would be a big plus.

  11. A says:

    I also like 城墙, “cheng qiang”

  12. Chris says:

    My native language is dutch and if they imitate Chinese speakers in Dutch they usually use:
    Ching Chang Chong next to Bruce Lee’s battle cries (but that aside)
    so I came up with a couple of alternatives:
    1 请上城
    2 请伤神

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