Don't say it. Scream it.
When learning Chinese at a Chinese university, reading out loud is a popular method used by most teachers that I know. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the higher the level I get to, the louder the teachers want us to read. On the first, hesitative levels (1, 2, maybe even 3) it was totally OK to read a bit quietly, but now, oh no… now we are supposed to scream out the words so that the teacher can address any pronunciation problems easier. I have a bit of a problem with this since I am not the ‘loud’ kind of person. Also, quite often we are asked to read together (the whole class) and the sound of 15 + students SCREAMING out the text is more than enough to give you a headache. Also, just like I am more of a ‘quiet’ person there are also a few ‘loud’ ones in class, so those are the ones that take over during the screaming sessions.
I often take the opportunity to go to the bathroom during the screa… sorry, reading session, because you know what? Even though the bathroom is located quite far from our classroom, I can walk there, lock myself into a little booth, and still hear EVERYTHING that is going on in my classroom! That’s how loud it is! One day I actually thought about parking myself at the bench outside the classroom and listen (more comfortable sound level), but I figured others might find that a bit weird so I didn’t.
It’s not only me who thinks it is loud. Just the other day our teacher (and old, old lady) told us that she feels so exhausted after our lessons that she sometimes have to take a nap! A nap! Because she’s been talking so loudly! I laughed so much when I heard this.
One might wonder why she continues to exhaust herself during our lessons by being so loud, but according to her, it’s the way things should be done in China.
“Chinese students have to read out very loud when they are in class. You guys are no exception!” she has told us.
Maybe the reading out loud in school is the reason why so many people are quite loud in China in general. Take our neighbors for instance. I know everything that goes on in their flat. What the children are eating, when they need to go to the bathroom, when they have done something bad, or something good… their ayi has the loudest, most piercing voice I have come across here in China. And she’s not afraid to use it.
In restauarnats you also sometimes have to fight to make yourself heard. Especially if the place is 热闹 ‘re nao’ (=”bustling with life and excitement, a lively place.” Re nao is a veeeery popular word here in China!). I like that there is some life and noise at restaurants (quite an opposite to restaurants in Sweden!) but sometimes it is almost laughable that it’s so loud and noisy that you cannot even talk to your friend sitting across the table.
I once tried to explain this in class. We were asked if we preferred bustling or quiet restaurants when eating out. I said that I prefer to go out and be surrounded by a lot of people, but that sometimes, I preferred a quiet, calm restaurant where I can hear my own thoughts. My message didn’t get across however. Instead, the teacher called me ‘anti-social.’
So, if you want to stay on top of your game over here, clear your throat and don’t hesitate to make yourself heard!