Chinese Test for Foreigners: A Fantasy

23 Sep 2007

So while some of us foreigners are feeling eager to be tested by the HSK, a portion of the Chinese population is wishing a more arduous kind of standardized testing upon us:

> When China becomes more powerful, we’ll make all the foreigners take band 4 or 6 exams! Classical Chinese would be too simple; it’ll all have to be answered using calligraphy brushes, but that’s going easy on them. Going hard on them would be a knife and a turtle shell for each person, and they have to carve in the oracle-bone characters! The essay topic would be: discuss the Three Represents! For the listening comprehension section, it would all be Jay Chou‘s songs, two listens for “Shuangjiegun” and one for “Juhua Tai“. We’ll tell them this is a totally normal speed that Chinese people speak at! Reading comprehension will be all government work reports, the spoken component will require Beijing Opera, and the practical component will be wrapping zongzi.

The original:

> 等咱中国强大了,全叫老外考中文四六级!文言文太简单,全用毛笔答题,这是便宜他们。惹急了一人一把刀一个龟壳,刻甲骨文!论文题目就叫:论三个代表!到了考听力的时候全用周杰伦的歌,《双截棍》听两遍,《菊花台》只能听一遍。告诉他们这是中国人说话最正常的语速!阅读理解全是政府工作报告,口试要求唱京剧,实验就考包粽子。

I love the humor with which the poster handled (1) the frustrations of being forced to learn English through a horrible impractical exam, and (2) the ridiculous complexity of his own native tongue, while (3) it was all set against the backdrop of China’s coming ascendancy as a world superpower, which isn’t a joke at all.

Thanks to John B for finding this.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Those are some harsh examination standards.

    No doubt that China’s education system is messed up, still skewed toward the old imperial examination memorize all of the information in the universe kind of test, but please don’t make the HSK this hard.

    That’s just cruel.

  2. It is said that many teachers in New Oriental School often tell this joke to their students to encourage them in their English study. I love it.

  3. Now THAT was wicked, specially the Jay Chou part B-)

  4. Yeah, I’ve gotten that one a few times in the comments on my Chinese blog. Personally, I’m all for oracle bones and seal script characters being a vital component of Chinese proficiency tests, because I am utterly against practicality in any form. Also, because I have been looking for an excuse to buy one of those massive character etymology dictionaries.

  5. I’ve always said, I’ll know I’m fluent when I can understand all of Jay Chou’s songs.

  6. How about doing the listening section in Fuzhou hua?

  7. I was taking everything seriously until the Jay part. Jay is great(I even gave my son his name as a middle name as in the J stands for Jay sort of way) but his lyrics are so slurred at times.

  8. Unfortunately, not many Chinese people can do Beijing Opera, which is often called Chinese “national treasure”(guo2cui4) though:(

  9. Fortunately, not many Chinese people can do Beijing Opera, which is often called Chinese “national treasure”(guo2cui4) though:(

    There, I fixed that for you.

  10. Yeah I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person- Chinese or otherwise- who can say they like Beijing opera with a straight face. Not that this stops my textbooks from writing dialogues in which foreigners gush over how beautiful the songs and costumes are.

  11. Matt Schiavenza Says:
    Yeah I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person- Chinese or otherwise- who can say they like Beijing opera with a straight face. Not that this stops my textbooks from writing dialogues in which foreigners gush over how beautiful the songs and costumes are.

    While I can tell you that I like Beijing Opera and Chinese traditional culture. Though some of my classmates think it is a little bit dull.

  12. Oh, damn, the part about Jay killed me so, so much. I love Jay to bits, but damn if his pronunciation isn’t crap.

  13. Yeah and the fact that chinese tv has a channel if not more dedicated to the darn thing.

  14. John where are you?

  15. LOL.
    Quite a few of my fellow classmates in university didn’t get their diplomas because of the failure in Band 4.

  16. John, nice post. I’ve seen a complete test of this flavor before. Just google “搞笑汉语托福“ and you’ll find it.
    My favorite is the following listening comprehension question:
    男:看那个妹妹,好靓哦!
    女:看你个大头鬼!

    问:这个女的是什么意思?

    答:
    A)这个男的头有病
    B)这个男的头比较大
    C)这个男的看见的是鬼
    D)这个女的有点吃醋。

  17. @Matt: What’s not to love about a storyline that involves a woman debating picking up a jade bracelet for 1/2 an hour? 😉

    I’m up for that wrapping Zongzi, as long as I don’t have to eat it.

  18. No post for weeks; are you alright?

  19. hobielover Says: August 4, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    It’s kind of freaky. I just subbed a live performance of both of those songs for YouTube, but of course I’m a huge Jay Chou fan. I wanted to beat myself over the head with my keyboard while subbing “Shuang Jie Gun,” though. I think I’d do well on the questions about “Ju Hua Tai,” though, since it’s one of my favorite songs. That’s probably the only part of the test I would do well on, but I’d sure do well on it!

  20. 恐惧猫王 Says: February 4, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    If you aren’t Chinese,I feel you are very interesing O(∩_∩)O~~

  21. 林启明 Says: July 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

    我是一个中国人,可以帮助大家学习

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