Author: Jin Ming
Appropriate and pleasant communication helps to make good impression even good and long relationship between friends. Sometimes Chinese people haven’t noticed that some words we are using might hurt people’s feelings when we are taking with Americans. I think it’s very necessary to analyze why we choose the words and how to improve our wordings. So let’s talk about the word fat which is a sensitive word for Americans.
When I visited my gal-pal after a long trip and I said to her “It seems like you gained weight recently.” Which made one of my friends very upset and he told me “You are so rude to her.” We [Chinese] might think it’s very common to say this as a greeting or caring for your very close friends. And also a kindness remind for your friends to keep their figure. But it would be considered as a very rude behavior in the USA.
And I also made another mistake about using fat. I was having conversation with my friend and she was joking with me talking about our weight. And I said to her “you are fat!” And she said “I’m not fat. I am pretty much the average American woman.” I have noticed that I should never use fat for anyone.
And there is another example. One of my students went to China with his mom for spring break this year. He was so excited to share the awesome trip with me when he was back to school. He said Chinese food was amazing and Chinese people were very friendly. But there was one thing that a little Chinese boy said to him “your mom is fat,” which shocked his mom and him. His mom felt a little awkward at that time after hearing it.
You see I am not the only one who would make mistakes when we communicate with American friends. And we were using fat all the time to describe someone overweight in our English composition. And even our teachers teach us fat, although it might not be her fault.
I think there are three reasons why we use fat pretty often when we want to describe someone who is overweight. Firstly, from Chinese culture side most Chinese people like being thin and we think thin is beauty. So we might want to use fat when we see someone not thin .Secondly, the first word appears in most Chinese people’s mind is fat when we talk about overweight because it’s an easy and common word and we don’t know chubby. Just like we know to say dog, cat, horse as those are very simple words but for other animals but we’ll use “animals” because of our limited vocabularies instead of saying the specific ones if we don’t know how to say them. Thirdly, we don’t know the exactly which size can be said fat. We’ll use fat as long as we see his or her overweight. So next time we should avoid talking about someone’s weight and never use fat to them.
We should learn the exactly meaning and know how to use it properly in their culture when we start leaning a new language. And it’s the same of learning Chinese.