I'm practicing my upcoming talk in Chinese, and I like to start talks with a light joke to appear friendly. So I came up with this:


The first time I gave a talk on the Nankai campus, I used Chinese for the first sentence, and the audience applauded loudly. Afterwards, I spoke English, but the audience didn't understand, so when I finished my talk, the applause was comparatively quiet. They only understood the first sentence. I hope my speaking now is clearer.

After this, I plan to go into the content of the talk.

Question: Is my joke about my first talk at Nankai correct, understandable, and funny?

Basically, I'm after some constructive criticism on this. I'm not hugely fussed about it being the most optimal way to say this, but as long as it's not a semantic nor grammar disaster. (There'll surely be plenty of other grammar mishaps when I get off-script.)

One thing I'm concerned about is if it's clear that the audience applauded directly after the first sentence (which I said in Chinese) before the remainder of the talk, which is an essential part of the joke.

I'm also not sure about 鼓掌比较小声 vs. 鼓掌声比较小.

  • too many 我,users suggest omitting at least the 1st 我 in a any complex sentence,
    – user6065
    Aug 16, 2018 at 9:05

3 Answers 3


I can see what you are trying to joke about.

我第一次在南开学校作演讲 is a bit ambiguous. Some might take this is your first time to deliver a speech. So, out of that confusion, you can say ahead like: 这是我第二次在南开大学做演讲。 记得我第一次在这里演讲时,...

So, here is a version I make for your reference:

这是我第二次在南开大学做演讲。记得我第一次在这里演讲时,我用汉语讲第一句话来和大家打招呼,大家热烈鼓掌以示回应。接下来的演讲我一直用的是英语。可能是大家没怎么听懂,所以我讲完后,大家都没反应,似乎好像都不知道我已经讲完了!所以, 这一次我准备全程用中文来讲。 希望大家都可以听得明白。


I'm not sure what your joke is. And to be honest, I would become hostile when you joked that the audience could not understand English.

Grammar-wise, I think it's ok. Maybe change 南开学校 --> 南开, and 只是第一句话 --> 只有第一句话

re Becky's comment

I get that. But people may interpret it as "since 8 years ago the audience didn't understand English, I'm going to talk completely in Chinese now." which feels quite patronising.

One way might be to start your first sentence in English. Try to get an applause with that sentence. Then switch to Chinese and tell them the joke.

  • The joke is that they applauded loudly at my first sentence in Chinese (one single sentence), but not loudly for the whole rest of the talk. It's like the remainder of the talk didn't matter, just that one sentence in Chinese.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Aug 16, 2018 at 9:12
  • @Becky李蓓 Oh In that way I must have misunderstood your intension. So you want the audience to focus on your speech instead of your speaking Chinese itself, don't you? Aug 16, 2018 at 9:32
  • Yeah, the hours I spent preparing my talk was a waste of time: I could have just said that one sentence in Chinese, accepted my applause, then walked out, and the situation would have been equivalent (since nobody understood anything after I switched to English). [But this all refers to a talk I gave maybe 8 years ago.]
    – Becky 李蓓
    Aug 16, 2018 at 9:35
  • @Becky李蓓 Edit updated. Aug 16, 2018 at 10:14

Before reading your explanation I was bewildered about your intention and I cannot say it's funny to me. Sorry about that, but I think your audience would probably feel the same.

If you want the audience to applaud right after the first sentence you need to give some hint of your intention and pause before the second sentence to allow them to react to your joke. I would say "虽然我是一名外国人,但我第一次在南开演讲的时候,是用中文开的头,所以观众那时用了热烈的掌声来鼓励我(,希望这一次也能受到鼓励!)"

For the rest of the words given, I don't think they can serve your intention. : )

EDIT: Then perhaps no joke is needed. You just need to get it across. 第一次在南开演讲的时候,我用中文开了头,观众掌声很热烈。但那时我中文还不太行,所以只能全程用英语报告,台下许多人没能跟得上,最后只收获了零星的鼓掌。这次我认真准备了中文发言,就是为了我的研究成果能够传达给大家,这样我的努力便没有白费。希望我今天的发言能够达意。

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