How to act like you know Chinese even though you don’t


I was riding in a car with a friend when a Chinese pop album spun up on the CD. I made a remark about the song, and my friend, knowing that I was studying Mandarin, asked me, "Do you know what she's singing about?"

I immediately replied, "She's singing about love."

"Wow," my friend responded. "Your Chinese is quite good."

"Nope," I said. "But all pop songs are about love."

If somebody asks you what a pop song is about, you can answer "love", and you've got a very high chance of being correct.

Comments (34)
  1. Sahil Malik says:

    Thats true. And all chinese movies are about some martial art teacher who is killed by the bad guy and his best student takes revenge.

  2. je suis chinoi says:

    sahil malik

    you are wrong,all?

    I am chinese

  3. Andrew says:

    I’m learning Cantonese right now – it and Mandarin are challenging languages to be sure.

    Candy Lo and Kelly Chen have some good music – they have albums in both languages.

  4. On a similar note, I’d like to watch at least one good adventure movie that doesn’t get rottenly spoiled by boy-meets-girl.

  5. I think that point used to be valid – that all songs were about love.

    Unfortunately, a lot of music nowadays is just dribble….

  6. Moi says:

    Actually if you know that the other person doesn’t know Chinese you tell them anything you like. I know, I know, very immoral. But fun.

  7. jeffdav says:

    Not all pop songs are about love. Some are about driving around in cars. And some are about drinking.

  8. Unless you’re listening to Rammstein or The Cure.

    Well, some of their stuff sounds pop-ish.

  9. Ry Jones says:

    I’d like to point out that banging on the keyboard works sometimes, too. http://blog.ryjones.org/archive/2004/12/24/1068.aspx

  10. Love, driving around in cars to lure love, imitating love and getting drunk to get sex, it’s all generally the same topic.

  11. Mike Dunn says:

    Three of the songs on that CD have the word "love" in the title (counting "Love Love Love" as one), so your odds were good. ;)

  12. Steve Lewin-Berlin says:

    In one of his books (I think it was "Surely You’re Joiking, Mr. Feynman) Richard Feynman tells the story of jokingly claiming to speak chinese. When his excited companion pulled him over to talk witha Chinese friend, Feynman, rather than admit his deception, started babblnig in gibberish. The friend’s face fell, and disappointedly said something like "It figures, you speak Mandarin and I speak Cantonese".

    I may have the details wrong, but the gist of the story is as described…

    Steve

    (ps Raymond, you may remember me as Steve Berlin; I did contract development work on the Windows 95 Kernel some years ago. I’ve enjoyed your blog – it brings back some fond, and some not-so-fond, memories!)

  13. Dean Harding says:

    I dunno if you’ve ever watched Bollywood movies, but a friend of mine is Indian and she watches a lot of them. If she ever brings one over to watch or something she’ll say "this is (insert movie title), have you seen it yet?" and I’ll just say "yeah, isn’t that the one where the guy falls in love with the girl, and her parents don’t like him, but he wins them over in the end with his boyish good looks and goofy charm?". 99% of the time I’m right anyway :)

    Of if not, it’s some rip-off of a hollywood movie, but with the above plot overlayed as well…

    :p~

  14. silvermyst says:

    Bollywood movies and Chinese/Japanese/Korean drama serials. Oh the drama.

    Chinese songs in general seem to soppier than the average English pop fare, but the emotions translate better- I don’t think you can get away with the stuff Chinese songs get away with if it was translated into English.

  15. Cheong says:

    Hello, a Chinese living in Hong Kong speaking here. :)

    The comment about love song is so true – most pop songs nowadays are about love and/or heroism. Or be more general, emotions. Because

    it appears that people here loves songs which express strong emotions.

    But beware, the word "love" here include the love between couples, friends, family members as well as country/ies. :)

  16. Rakesh Agrawal says:

    Absolutely the same thing is true of Bollywood movie songs. I was filling up a music player for my wife as a Valentine’s day gift last night and as I picked songs, I realized that almost every Hindi song I picked had something to do with love/longing/etc.

  17. Eric TF Bat says:

    "So what’s Raymond blogging about today?"

    "Oh… he’s alternating between weird cross-cultural language issues and stories about how most of Microsoft’s effort in the last decade has been to keep things compatible with obsolete software written by third-party morons."

    "Gosh – you must be reading his blog pretty regularly!"

    "No – I had my eyes poked out by yaks, so I can’t read a thing."

    (PS We love you Raymond. Don’t ever change!)

  18. icelava says:

    Listen to Jay Chow (Zhou Jie Lun); half his music is not above love :-)

  19. Ram says:

    It’s a good thing that all songs are about love. Alternatives (war, hatred, car, real-estate, stocks, open source etc :)) are horrible.

    +1 to love songs, no matter how trite they are.

  20. Leak says:

    I am a Chinese, but i like English musics.

    Jay Chow always sangs pop/Hip-Hop musics.

  21. Tim Dawson says:

    I want to hear a song about open source.

  22. Aaargh! says:

    Tim: here it is, sung by RMS, ofcource complete with ‘source’ (score and lyrics)

    http://www.gnu.org/music/free-software-song.html

  23. Hrumph says:

    And here’s another song on the topic:

    http://www.amiright.com/parody/80s/journey17.shtml

  24. Ben Hutchings says:

    Aaargh: Careful! If you refer to "open source" in front of RMS he will launch into a tirade about how that’s quite different from free software. There is a significant ideological difference between the OSI and the FSF, though their respective definitions of open source software and free software are largely overlapping. Having said that, most people I know who work on it don’t worry too much about the ideology.

  25. When I have travelled in Asian countries (Japan, Indonesia, Sinagpore and Thailand to date), I am always amused by hearing quasi-familiar tunes played in shopping malls – and then I realize it’s X western tune in all major keys. So even if the original was about driving, drinking or both – the makeover sounds like it’s about love.

  26. Cheong says:

    Aaargh!: It’s funny to know the song has more than one language version. :)

  27. David Candy says:

    I read a Fenyman book as well. That’s where he shows that our brains are multiple processors with time slicing in each section.

    I look at posters in an Indian video shop. They all have 1 (supposedly) handsome guy, a slightly smaller woman, and a small geek guy. Went to a Sony do tonight which was about digital photography and Sony (and MS and Gates Foundation) had paid him to take photos here and there. Sony had paid him for some Bollywood photos (but I got to see lots of chinese kids using MS software). Why do the Indian chicks have three black dots at three location on their face and one black dot under the red dot?

    And now for the point of this.

    Gibberish is fine. But anyone can understand english. One just needs to shout.

  28. David Candy says:

    PS MS performance in the provision of free food has slumped to last over the years. But I can say that Sony is tops. I have to cook food after MS functions now. But not with Sony. Plus they gave me a pen (ok MS does too), a water bottle (never recieved a water bottle from MS – but then again I use public bubblers),and a memory stick holder pouch.

    But I have a nice MS table lamp. Although the bulbs are $5.

    And I have to admit I got two Office XP at one function ($2 400 retail). Me mum and dad thank you.

    But the MS food has gone to the recycle bin. A few months ago it was lamb burgers (but they only came out late) and spring rolls.

    Sony is now my favourite supplier of free food. I hope MS gets it act together soon. I WILL NOT go to Kirsten’s (some yank at MS Australia that spams me once a week) roadshow unless food is better. To add insult to injury, till a few years ago I was the IT manager of a company that supplied catering for executives (incl MS), but I don’t get that service from MS.

    Remember, it’s all about free food.

  29. David Candy says:

    PS I took photos of the MV Taiko with my cannon at the sony do (me mum is the sanyo customer). The MV Taiko is similar to the MV Tampa, a very, very famous ship (as it legitimised torture in Australia).

  30. How to act like you know Chinese even though you don’t I was riding in a car with a friend when a Chinese pop album spun up on the CD. I made a remark about the song, and my friend, knowing that I was studying Mandarin, asked me, "Do you know what she’s singing about?" I immediately replied, "She’s singing about love." "Wow," my friend responded. "Your Chinese is quite good." "Nope," I said. "But all pop songs are about love." If somebody asks you what a pop song is about, you can answer "love", and you’ve got a very high chance of being correct. Good to know….

  31. smnaha says:

    I want to hear a song about open source.

    >>it is all about make files..

    ants and versions and builds??

  32. J.Random says:

    On a similar note, I’d like to watch at least one good adventure movie

    >that doesn’t get rottenly spoiled by boy-meets-girl.

    "A Boy and his Dog" is considerably improved once the boy-meets-girl occurs.

  33. A Thai duo that performs in Thai and Chinese.

  34. A logistical nightmare.

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