China First Hand

31 January 2006

Oi! Ha ha ha?

Filed under: Language — china1sthand @ 8:20 pm

Chinese is tuneful and I enjoy hearing its sound surround me. But I can’t always cope! It’s quite funny – your brain automatically hears English words – but I only notice when I overhear something incredibly shocking! Wow the inappropriate things spoken by seemingly innocent ladies, and the foul language from the mouths of children!

Here’s a typical phone conversation that is always said with a COMPLETELY straight face:

(answered) “Oi…ha ha ha…ok…how? why? hubba…bye-bye” (click)

The Chinese do mix random English into their conversations. At any moment a word I know is hurled from the background hum of chatter – and I’m startled every time! Conversations always have lots of questions, and they are almost always in the wrong place… Of course I now know that tonal communication has a different meaning here as words have tones. In Chinese, it sounds like there’s a question when there isn’t – and when there is a question I can’t tell where it is! It always sounds like the Chinese interrupt each other! The phone calls begin with ‘oi’ because it’s a greeting, so it is not meant as a disrespectful call for attention. ‘Ha ha ha’ is like yeah yeah yeah or ok ok ok – and it is not incredibly sarcastic laughter to a painfully unfunny joke. Some say Chinese are rude – but I think you can easily misjudge if you don’t understand. Here’s the most common phone conversation I hear in China. Is it pompous and abrupt?

(answered) “Oi?………Ha!” (click)



  1. Ha is used to agree or ok in gujarati aswell

    Comment by val — 18 August 2006 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  2. […] As with any skill, the best way to learn a language is through practice. Perhaps you get this practice when you submerse yourself in native speech? The problem with a beginner is, who will speak to you in simple terms? Even if you can string your side together, you’ve got no chance understanding the reply! […]

    Pingback by Learning To Talk « China First Hand — 21 September 2006 @ 12:48 am | Reply

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