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

  1. garymar Says:

    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. M Says:

    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.