How Difficult is Chinese? A Tsinghua Professor Complains

Recently there was a competition for Tsinghua civil engineering majors. Whose structure can support the most weight? And so on. At the end of the competition, a professor handed out prizes to the winners. After the awards ceremony, the professor who had handed out the awards said to a colleague, “I don’t like this job.” His colleague was surprised: What was so bad about handing out awards? The professor explained that the students’ names sometimes included characters so obscure that he didn’t know them. Which was embarrassing.

2 Replies to “How Difficult is Chinese? A Tsinghua Professor Complains”

  1. Ditto for Japanese, with bells on! There are plenty of common, ordinary Chinese characters that take on strange readings when used as names in Japanese that even well-educated native speakers will shake their heads in puzzlement. That’s why they print the pronunciation along the side with furigana.

  2. After I came to China, I acquired a Chinese name. It turns out that one of the characters (suggested by a Taiwanese friend) is fairly obscure. Some native speakers have trouble with it — and I sometimes don’t tell them if they make a mistake with the pronunciation, not wanting them to feel uncomfortable.

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