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A friend once told me a funny story about himself ordering in a Chinese restaurant. He just started Chinese learning then, and did not know how to say the numbers in Chinese. He wanted to eat fish. And the waiter asked how many fish he needed (服务员问他要几条鱼 fú wù yuán wèn tā yào jǐ tiáo yú). So he held out two fingers – the thumb (拇指 mǔ zhǐ) and the forefinger (食指 shízhǐ) of his right hand (右手 yòu shǒu), signifying that he wanted two fish.
Guess what? When the waiter served up, there are eight fish in the dish. How come that the waiter thought my friend means eight fish? The gesture is to be blamed. Yes, in China, we hold out the thumb and the forefinger of the same hand to express the number eight. Speaking of this, let’s take a look at the Chinese gestures for other numbers.
As we all know, gestures are prevalent in communication and closely linked to language and speech. Knowing the gestures in a certain culture is highly helpful to learning that language. Like English Chinese translation, Chinese gestures can also be regarded as a kind of translation.
Therefore, if you’re having face-to-face Chinese classes, you should pay attention to your teacher’s gestures. If you learn Chinese online, you cannot ignore the gestures either.
Read some articles on this, and ask your teachers or partners whenever you encounter a gesture and want to know how people use it in another culture.
You may also be interested in another blog post about a person Learning to Count in Chinese.
This blog post was originally published on the Study More Chinese Blog.
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