The idiom that expresses “birds of a feather flock together” isn’t expressed so vividly in Chinese as it is in English, but it is a very useful and often-used phrase. Surprise your Chinese friends. It is expressed as wùyǐleìjù ( 物以类聚): wù “things,” yǐleì “the same category,” jù “get together.” If you are learning Chinese and are enthusiastic, find some other enthusiastic birds to flock with. You will learn a lot faster. You’ll find it flocking easy.
Here is an article by Confused Laowai. It starts, “I’ve been studying Mandarin at University for about two years and 3 months. The mistakes I made, might not be mine particularly, but perhaps the way our course is structured. However, these mistakes can be applied to anyone starting to learn Mandarin. These “mistakes” are not necessarily bad, but it’s part of my current shortcomings in Mandarin that I still struggle with. Perhaps you can learn from me and try to fill those gaps earlier on….
Bāngmáng (帮忙) means to help (bāng), or literally ‘help with busyness’ (忙). We can often say ‘help someone with something’ like ‘help him wash dishes.’ (bāng tā xǐpánzi) (帮 他 洗盘 ). However, when well-intentioned people try to help you, but they seem to be more of a hindrance than a help, you could complain to others that they bāng dàománg (帮 倒 忙). This expresses that when they tried to help (bāng,) the opposite (dào) occurred making you busier (máng). Another way to say it is yuè bāng yuè máng (越 帮 越 忙) is funnier: the more he helped, the worse (busier) it got. Could be similar to “he was just getting in the way.”
In China, people are pretty much wary of appearing too popular, too smart, or too rich, basically because it provokes jealously. We say in Mandarin Chinese that we are pàhóng (afraid of red) (meaning afraid of being too noticeable), because as we say in English, “the nail that stands out gets the hammering.” Therefore, humility may not be as much an inborn personality trait or a sign of good education as it is a defense mechanism used to protect oneself from jealousy, often times disguised as criticism and often resulting in backstabbing and sabotaging (as confrontation is avoided in China). That’s the real mìmì (secret)!
As an editor of scientific journal articles, I have had the opportunity to read the peer reviews of manuscripts submitted for publication, and have chuckled because most often it is NOT the native English-speaking peer reviewers who are most critical of the author’s English, it is the Chinese peer reviewers who are most likely to criticize the English, as if they actually knew! Of course, language can be edited and edited and edited, forever and forever! It can ALWAYS be improved.
As I edit research manuscripts, I have noticed that some authors in China are overly critical of previous research in the Discussion or Comment section of the manuscript. I either remove the comments or tone the negativity down, because I know this will make the peer reviewers become overly critical of the manuscript they are reviewing. Who knows? One of those peer reviewers may very well be the person or a friend of the person the author is criticizing. Oops, poor review and rejection!
In Chinese, they have a saying, “Scholars hate scholars.” For some reason, some people, not only in China but others around the world, think they can raise their own esteem if they push down, browbeat, or make fun of others. The logic is similar to this: if I go next door and break up my neighbors’ living room furniture, my own living room furniture will look better. Yeah, right! Of course, the opposite often happens because criticism invites criticism. Most likely, critical people, those who habitually and blatantly judge something as bad, terrible, or without merit, will be held in lower esteem by all. And THAT will be easy to do, for as Wei Zheng from the Tang Dynasty said, “Other people are mirrors that reflect our own flaws.” From this, we can deduce your frequent criticisms show that you have plenty of flaws that can be found and will be found and used by people who have a negative opinion of you.