Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the Office

Monday, I went into the supply room at the office to get some red pens to correct my students' essays. I discovered that one of the women who works there is trying to learn English. So, whenever I go in to ask for supplies she asks, "Zenme shuo yingyu?" (How do you say in English?) I find this useful since I need to learn the words for things like binder, photocopies, and anything else I may need for class.

Today, I had to sign for the supplies that I received. I noticed the Chinese above the column for my signature, but didn't know two of them. I asked the other woman in the supply room what it said and discovered that I guessed one of the two correctly. She asked me if I could read Chinese I said, "Yi dian dian." (A little bit.) I then told her that I know about 300 characters, to which she responded, "Not enough." Usually when I say I know 300 characters people are impressed. This is the first time I got an honest response about my level of Chinese.

If you don't believe the rarity of hearing an honest response to the language ability, I have examples. I have had plenty of experiences with people telling me I speak Chinese very well after hearing me say, "Ni hao," and "Xie xie." Knowing only a few words and phrases does not mean I know much of a language.

Also while in the supply room, I received a call from someone I didn't know and who didn't speak English (that's a sign that I don't want to answer the call). After refusing to answer the first two times, I finally picked up the phone. I answered with, "I don't speak Chinese." The women in the office thought this was really funny considering I was talking to them in Chinese.


Raivyn said...

lol, it is funny! I'm a game master on an online game and have had to tell several Italians that I don't speak their language, in their language. The staff gets a chuckle out of it every time.

montchan (MJ Bliss) said...

What I find annoying is when people complement your language ability to your face and then turn around and laugh behind your back thinking you don't understand. Happened to me in Cantonese too many bloody times to count.

montchan (MJ Bliss) said...

I meant compliment, sorry can't spell tonight, too many beers.