How to Translate Compliments in Chinese, aka The Six Levels of Mandarin Fluency

TOCFL, HSK 1: You can only point and grunt. 這個 and 那個 determine whether you live or die. You point at squiggly lines on a menu and pray to your god you aren’t struck down, poisoned. You survive on a diet of fruit at a 7/11 just to be safe. Cab drivers are amazed you don’t even know where you live. The subway is a wonderland of sheer terror.

TOCFL, HSK 2: ”你的中文很可愛” = “Dude you fucking suck at Chinese. Did you get off the boat yesterday?”

TOCFL, HSK 3: “你的中文很棒”=”Good for you, Cracker, you strung three words together to ask for a cookie.”

TOCFL, HSK 4: “你講中文講得很好” = “I actually can kind of understand what you’re saying, sort of. Perhaps. If there’s no music or loud sounds in the background.”

TOCFL, HSK 5: “你講得很標準” = “Pretty Fly. For a white guy. I still don’t know if you live at the #4 or #10.”

TOCFL, HSK 6: “你真的又胖又不好看“ = “You are the most excellent Chinese speaker I have ever met. I am in awe of your linguistic capabilities.”

And then the real work begins — 文學!