Often in my Mandarin Chinese classes, I like to challenge the students to use their Mandarin Chinese in creative ways while problem solving. We engage in friendly debates and I give them tricky riddles or show them confusing images and problems that encourage students to speak up and form an opinion on tricky subjects and questions. Often, the students feel dumbfounded, or “at a loss” when they have to make up their mind and come to a decision.
For these times when we are uncertain, thrown off, or confused, we can use the Mandarin Chinese expression “抓瞎 (zhuāxiā)”.
抓瞎 (zhuāxiā): find oneself at a loss; be thrown off balance; to be unprepared.
抓 (zhuā): v. scratch; clutch, seize.
瞎 (xiā): adj. Blind.
Kǎo qián zuò hǎo zhǔnbèi, kǎoshì shí nǐ jiù bú huì zhuāxiā.
考 前 做 好 准备， 考试 时 你 就 不 会 抓瞎。
Be well prepared for examinations, and you will not find yourself at a loss.
Yí yù dào wèntí tā jiù zhuāxiā.
一 遇 到 问题 他 就 抓瞎。
He finds himself perplexed every time that he faces problems.
I remember one example of when my students found themselves “抓瞎 (zhuāxiā)” in class. We looked at the infamous “white/gold or blue/black” dress that became an Internet sensation due to how each pair of eyes seemed to see it in different colors. Students had differing opinions on the colors they saw and were split on which colors the dress was. They felt “抓瞎 (zhuāxiā)” as to why their classmates could see something totally different from them! This, and other optical illusions are fun to show in class and see the reactions of the students.
So, next time you find yourself dumbfounded, at a loss, unprepared or perplexed, you can use “抓瞎 (zhuāxiā)” to express that your mind is puzzled and perplexed!
1. In which situation could you not use “抓瞎 (zhuāxiā)” to express your state of mind?
A. You don’t study for final exams and go in unprepared, receiving low scores
B. You want to cook for your family, but don’t know how to start when entering the kitchen
C. After hours of failed attempts, you finally solve the difficult math problem
D. You can’t understand the plot of the confusing mystery novel
Becky Zhang is a teacher at eChineseLearning.com. She has over eight years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!