The thing is, everything in China relies on context.
It’s kind of like when you meet your boyfriend’s friends and they’re all “Remember that time? Hahahaha!” while you’re all “Hi, I’m Meg”. They use these half sentences and references to other things, and even an awesome girlfriend just can’t keep up.
In Norse mythology, each line of a story is a kenning, a reference to another story. If you’re well versed in the exploits of Thor and Freyja, the kennings are funny and clever. If you’re not, it’s an epic brainteaser.
There’s actually a Star Trek episode where the Next Gen crew runs into this race that only speaks in references to their history. I’m ok with something like “Caesar and Brutus in the forum,” but it’s hard when it’s “Bob and Joe last Thursday.”
China is an entire country like that. They’re this clique that’s been exclusive for 5,000 years and I just can’t fit in. There’s no need to explain things in China because there’s this cultural hivemind that’s able to understand everything from super-secret contextual clues.
Chinese is all about context. There are so many homonymns in the language, so you need a complete sentence to make sense. In fact, most Chinese jokes are puns that get huge laughs in Chinese but don’t translate particularly well. And there are also many words that aren’t really pronounced the same but I kind of pronounce them the same way. You need to use a complete sentence or a complete phrase because a couple syllables can be easily misunderstood. It doesn’t make sense unless you put into context.
When Zorro was helping me with my Chinese yesterday, he said I should try to speak faster and not draw out each syllable. He also said I’m using a Beijing accent. (Can you believe that? I know about 3 words and he’s criticizing my accent!)
So I try to speed up when I use Chinese. It’s another example of how Chinese is the opposite of English, because when my teenage girls mumble and speed though their answers, I make them stand up and shout each word.
“Shout it like Alice’s mean math teacher!” I tell them. Hey, it’s an inside joke. They understand.