“Gross Emergency” – Chinese Language Speaking Ambiguities

The China Simplified team plays around with possible misunderstandings of the common Chinese term 应该没问题 yīnggāi méiwèntí meaning “should be no problem.” This ambiguous term can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on how its pronounced.

Yīnggāi means should or ought to. Méiwèntí means no problem. Ironically, when these two phrases, both ensuring some degree of certainty, are bundled together, things can seem to be less certain and more suspicious. So how do you know whether to relax or run for the hills? The secret is to listen for the pronunciation of the word yīnggāi . A brief, confident or dismissive answer indicates greater confidence. A long and drawn out response (like our dodgy doctor in the video!) may portend disaster.

Our book China Simplified: Language Gymnastics explores how to uncover the real intentions and hidden meanings in ambiguous conversations, a critical skill when communicating in China. We also splash dive into the fascinating origins of the Chinese language, recognizing lucky and unlucky numbers, using funny expressions in different Chinese dialects, and the future of the Mandarin language.