To give you some idea of the hazards of the Chinese language,here is a conversation I had during lunch in the eatery next to my hotel in Shanghai this year. I translate the conversation literally:
Jan: You good!
Waitress: You good
Jan: Exist Dynasty Cotton?
Waitress: I Not Bright White ( I don’t understand)
( I change tones to try and make myself understood)
Jan: Exist Damp Hibernation?
Waitress ( starts grinning): I not realise
Jan: You have Bird’s Nest Childbirth?
Waitress (giggling uncontrollably): Not Have!
Jan ( increasingly frustrated): Sarcastic Bread??
Jan: YOU HAVE MOCK CORONATION???
Waitress has thrombosis of mirth, dissolves into such laughter that the manager stares over from his smoke-filled nebula.
Resigned to my fate, I get out my dictionary and point to the characters.
Waitress (wiping tears): Oh! You want Fried Noodles! You not say why????
Jan ( sighing, resigned): Good, Transcribe Bashful please, and one bottle Spleen Nine