My Chinese Language Boyfriend

In our second week we were all assigned language partners- graduate students that act as your tutors and guides to China. Yuan Yuan told us that there were only two male language partners so I basically assumed that mine would be a girl. false. My language partner’s name is Zhang De Biao and he is definitely an interesting character.

The day I met Zhang De Biao I was a few minutes late because I had my individual session with Sun Laoshi. As I walked in the door Yuan Yuan motioned over Zhang De Biao and he literally got up and lead me out of the room! I was expecting a little meeting and an introduction of everyone’s language partners and some get to know you stuff. nope. I didn’t even get to see what any of the language partners looked like. We walked to the cafeteria and went up to the fancy restaurant on the 5th floor. As we sat at the table he asked me what I wanted to eat. I told him to order away, since I had no idea what anything was anyway. The whole time we were sitting there it felt like a really awkward date where he was correcting my grammar the entire time. The Chinese people around us were definitely eavesdropping on our conversation.

From that point on we’ve met three times a week, working on my grammar and conversational skills. At first it was really awkward, and he was definitely a “tutor” but over the last month we’ve started to become awkward friends. Being the only girl with a male language partner, I am the butt of all jokes. “Hey Richelle, how’s your boyfriend doing?” nope. not going to happen. At one point we were talking about cursive and Zhang De Biao asked if I could do his name in cursive. Since his English name is “John” I told him he needed a last name. We decided on “John De Biao”, which basically reverses his Chinese name. Zhang is his family name and De Biao is his first name, but for his English name De Biao is his last name. Everyone decided that John De Biao sounds super Italian so now he is referred to as “Johnny De Biao”. At least they’re not calling him my “中国中文男朋友“ (Chinese language boyfriend).

Johnny De Biao, Zhang de Biebs, whatever you want to call him, is also super intense. Out of all of the language partners he is by far the most “into it”. He basically idolizes the head Chinese teacher, Lu Laoshi, and has sat in on the Chinese 1 class three times- so everyone in that class (1/3 of our program) knows him pretty well. We are supposed to meet with our language partners 3 times a week for an hour each time but we always go over time and he is always asking me to hang out on top of our regular three times a week. I DONT HAVE ANY TIME! He is a really great asset to my Chinese though. I was talking with Yuan Yuan and she told me that she purposely put us together because she thought I was very dedicated about wanting to improve my Chinese and he is by far the most intense. For example, one time I was two minutes early and he said “江澜!(My Chinese name) I just called you! I was wondering where you were!”. I was TWO MINUTES EARLY. My Chinese has definitely improved a lot though, and hopefully it will keep getting better and better!



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

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