Chinese New Year Line Dance

Overheard near Jing’an Temple, a conversation between a Chinese woman and an American woman:

> Chinese woman: It is Chinese New Year, time for line dance.

> American woman: Really, line dances? You do line dances for Chinese New Year?

> Chinese woman: Yes, line dance.

> American woman: What kind of line dance?

> Chinese woman: You know, Chinese line. Like that stone line.

> American woman: Oh, lion dance! OK, I see.

I don’t mean to make fun of anyone’s pronunciation, but the idea of a “Chinese New Year Line Dance” was just too good. (Maybe for next year’s craptacular?)


John Pasden

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


  1. I went to a Valentine’s Day ball the day before Lunar New Year this year, and we really did do a line dance! Funnily enough, right outside the ballroom, the Vietnamese Student Association was holding an event featuring lion dance 😀

  2. That is so cute!

  3. light487 Says: March 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Hehe.. That’s a good one. The most recent one of these I can think of is when my friend, who is from Suzhou but has been in Australia for 3 and a bit years, was talking to me about “aging” people. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation started or the exact words that were used but what she was really saying was “asian” 🙂

    What tends to trip me up the most is when she, or another Chinese speaker, suddenly switches from speaking Chinese to speaking English within the same conversation. There I am trying to translate in my head these completely new words/sounds that I have never heard of; trying to work out the meaninfg based on the context of the rest of the conversations.

    Then they say something like “am I saying that right?”, thinking that it is they who are making the mistake with their pronunciation of English and then it dawns on me that they were speaking English and everything suddenly makes sense.

    It’s like the whole world gets out of synch for few moments while we reorient ourselves with each other. 🙂 ahhh! The wonders of language barriers! 🙂

  4. This is so funny. I am a lion dance coach in Oregon. I have had this same conversation so many times in the past month. We have been very busy this year. At lease one performance every day of the new year. We have a dragon now too. I get less confused looks if I say Chinese lion and dragon dance.

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