Saturday, December 22, 2012

Serves me right?!

click for a full size version
Let's start at the very beginning, right?
The other day I was speaking to a native Mandarin speaker from the Mainland, who asked me who I practise with, given that I live in Hong Kong where the native language is Cantonese, and where spoken Mandarin is "non-standard".

He was shocked to hear that most of my time spent speaking Chinese is actually with Hong Kong people. In fact, he went as far as to say it would probably be better not to practise at all, than to practise with someone who doesn't speak "standard" Mandarin.

This makes no sense to me. If I want to learn Chinese then I need to practise, and in fact imperfect practice is better than none at all. This reminds me of a great ironic post by Khatzumoto (founder of the AJATT "All Japanese All The Time" system) - definitely worth reading after you have finished reading this post!

F*** me, right?
There is a great meme which comes from the movie Superbad, that features Jonah Hill (in the picture above). You can read more about the origins of this particular meme, and see many variations at KnowYourMeme and QuickMeme, but let me summarise as follows: The meme, in its various forms, implies that they were trying to do a good thing (written at the top of the page) but in fact people are being negative about that. Examples include:
  • I'm just trying to give you a better education.  F*** me, right?
  • I did what I was asked.  F*** me, right?
  • I'm doing 60kmph in a 60kmph zone. F *** me, right?
  • I want to make a living doing something I love.  F*** me, right?
I'm sure you get it now. Right?

So f*** ME, right??
And that was basically how I felt when I was being told that I shouldn't be practising my Chinese with people who don't speak perfect standard Mandarin. Right?

There's a lesson in here, right?
Well, when I mentally linked my conversation to this meme, I started wondering how I might say that in Mandarin. Frankly, despite speaking to several native speakers, I didn't get a (literal) suggestion that I liked. But Yi (thanks Yi!) suggested something that did feel right, although disappointingly it doesn't contain any swear words. F*** me, right?

She suggested the phrase 活该 (huógāi), which could mean "deservedly so" or "serves [you] right". I like this, and so my own variation of this meme - seen above - contains that phrase. I've added in the 吧 (ba) character to emphasis it's more of a leading suggestion than an actual question.

Naturally, when I want to make sure I remember a word, it invariably finds its way into my flashcard pack, and for your interest, this is the sentence I used:

     She ate too much and feels sick, serves her right
     ta chī tài duō le, gǎndào nánshòu, huógāi

Notes you might find useful, right?
  • If you don't know what a meme is, look here
  • "Standard Chinese" is how people commonly refer to the variation of Mandarin which is the official version - because there really are so many versions & dialects. In Mandarin you would use the word 标准 (biāozhǔn).
  • Some readers might notice that I use both the words 'practice' and 'practise'. This is not an error, in English one is a noun and one is a verb  :-)
  • If you have suggestions for alternative translations, especially ones that contain swear words :-) then please leave comments below.
I just thought you might be interested to note the above points. F*** me, right?