The Greatest Firewall of All

There are times when the chinese words come to you as friends. “Neng gan! Yes, you can!”, they whisper in your ear. On every taxi ride, on shop fronts, banners and building names, they flatter you, show you how much you already know: “Way to go, wo de pengyou!” Old vocabulary learned many years ago enters your mind with ease. Just another month and you’ll be able to fluently converse with everybody.

Ha! Don’t you ever trust them, they are just mocking you and will come back at you with a vengeance! “Hey, stupid laowai! What do you make of us today…?”, they greet you one morning. You stare at them in utter disbelief. You don’t even understand how they are written. Their shape and sound leave your memory as soon as your heart starts its next beat. “Oh,” they sigh in triumphant disappointment, “but you have to try harder. Na jiu duo nuli ba!”


  1. That’s a common thing to be seen, but hang in there, not everybody are like that! There are a lot of sicerely taxi driver out there!

    By the way, Neng Gan means not you can. We use Neng Gan as adjective to say people are very efficient, good at their job. And of course, sometimes we use it to encourage people, that you can do it. In that situation, Neng Gan is not a word, but two word. Usually as Ni neng gan de!

  2. Yike, I didn’t mean the taxi drivers. They are okay. ­čÖé I meant the slogans, the characters themselves, like they were speaking to me.

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