Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Speaking in Tongues

Last week I went to a nearby jiaozi (dumpling) joint with some of the trainees in my class.  An older lady in a blue Hui hat came out from the kitchen to get a look at the first foreigner to ever enter her restaurant.

"Ni hao," I said in quite passable Chinese.  It means "Hello."

"Ting bu dong," she said, looking helplessly at the young woman beside her.  "I don't understand."

"Ta shuo 'ni hao'!" laughed the young lady.  "She said 'ni hao'!"

"Ah, I thought she was speaking a foreign language!" said the old lady and we all shared another "Ni hao" and a good laugh.

This is so common in China, especially in places where foreigners are rare.  People have absolutely no expectation that they could understand anything that comes out of a white person's mouth, and therefore they don't, even when you speak to them in good Chinese. 

If I looked Chinese, I bet I'd get understood about twice as often.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like central planning has been busy. What an amazing situation you are in. Oh to be young and free again!