As mentioned in Students’ witticism: 02, I teach Functional/Survival phrases to students right from the first lesson, so that they can start putting them to use in a real-life situation.
Two of those phrases are:
- 你說什麼 / 你说什么 / nǐ shuō shénme / “you say what” = What do you say?
- 對不起，我來晚了 / 对不起，我来晚了 / duìbùqǐ, wǒ lái-wǎn le / Sorry I’m late.
When I was teaching the evening programme students, I’d put the question to late arrivals, even if they were only late by a minute — just for the practice. (Not that I minded their being late. Chinese was just a hobby for them, after all, and most of them had to come from work, so I was always grateful that they bothered to turn up at all.)
To go with the question, I’d do the hands-on-hips gesture for visual effect.
A few months into the course, I was late. Arrived to find the whole class, hands on hips, asking in gleeful unison: 你說什麼! / 你说什么! / nǐ shuō shénme!