One, Two, Three, What?!

Good afternoon! I’ve had a busy week ‘developing my cultural awareness’ – or chatting unashamedly to Chinese people in English. But I’m proud to say I’ve added a new phrase to my repertoire this week which I have been proudly proclaiming to everyone who looks at me – 你多大?

Literally meaning ‘how big you?’, this little phrase is the step beyond 你好 that leaves a smile on the face of the person you’re talking to. I’ve found that 你好 gets a response of something along the lines of ‘Hello, you are English?’, whereas 你多大 gets something along the lines of ‘Ah, you speak Chinese!’ – which I am soon to correct, but you know, it’s a start.

I could be exaggerating a little.

The new topic is opening a new door where I am delighted to find the three easiest characters I have ever seen – namely, the characters for one, two and three. I’ve been perfecting them (not killing time) taking arty pictures with thick black pens and am pleased to present my very own Chinese calligraphy – one, two, three!


One, two, three is all well and good, but I can’t imagine the outcries in Chinese primary schools when teachers tell them that four lines just won’t cut it for four. No, instead, the Chinese language takes it upon itself to draw something next nothing to do with four. 四? I mean, where did that come from – did the Chinese cavemen writing their numbers just have way too much time?

My strategy so far for remembering characters has been associating them with pictures, but I’ve been sitting here for a good few minutes now and nothing comes to mind linking 四 and four. Worse still, I discover that sometimes the nice simple 二 will be fine for two, but sometimes you need 两. Rules to distinguish them? I’m not even going to go there.

The number system continues in a strange fashion (no, stranger I suppose, than English – where did ‘6’ come from?) with 五,六, 七,八,九 and 十, but after that is where Chinese becomes remarkably easy. Eleven is just ‘ten one’, twenty is ‘two ten’, all the way up to 99 (nine ten nine). So if you’ve read this article so far – you can already count to one hundred in Chinese!

Beyond a hundred live dark and scary things which I’m not going to look at today – my goal was stating my age and I’m not turning a hundred any time soon. So I’ll wrap it up here for this week – but from now I’m going to try to write something in Chinese at the end of each article (unashamedly with some Google Translate, but not the whole thing).


Things I’ve learned this week:

  • Chinese cave men obviously had way too much time
  • English is fighting a fierce battle with Chinese for world’s craziest language
  • Dark and scary things live beyond a hundred

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4 thoughts on “One, Two, Three, What?!

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