Recently i’ve noticed that more people have been trying to engage with me in English. It’s probably because the schools are on holiday, and the youngsters that are usually stuck in a classroom for 8 hours a day, can actually get outside and meet other people！
Of course many college students also want to practise their English with the foreigner, and I understand that most students seldom have the opportunity to converse with a native speaker. So I try to be friendly, but sometimes i’m not in the mood.
I have become particularly hardened to this over the last few months and my attitude has begun to change.
They say the environment in which one lives has an effect on how one thinks and acts, and this is what has happened to me.
My attitude is now this: I now generally ignore people that try to speak to me in English.
This is because (outside the classroom) I’m just fed up of listening to bad english, and trying to understand someones meaning when I don’t have either the time or energy to think about it. This is a bit of a selfish attitude, it’s just that too many times i’ve been harangued by people wanting no more than a free English lesson – and the fact is, I really don’t have time to help everyone all of the time.
But I think the real issue here is one of complete ignorance. It seems that most Chinese beleive all foreign people understand English, especially that all White people in the world speak English. This claim annoys me, and so If anyone assumes I speak English without first asking ‘Do you speak English’ I stare back giving them a look as if they are a total moron.
This technique works for most, but it fails to deter the real hardcore element, who will keep asking and asking. For them it is necessary to reply with the simple and succinct ‘我听不动英语’ ‘I don’t understand English’. This results in a confused look ‘but you’re foreign you MUST understand english, don’t you all understand english?! you must be stupid!’
Indeed I have met many people who despite being told ‘我听不动英语’ persist to ask questions in English – it is at which point I tell them I am from Iceland , and to please shut up. Another tactic I have recently employed is to speak complete gibberish back to someone, makes me laugh anyway.
I don’t often eat at McDonalds, but I went there yesterday, and before I reached the counter the lady behind the counter said ‘Hello. How can I help you’
I gave her a confused look and said ‘ 什么?’ ‘What?’ , she repeated the English and I said ‘ 请说汉语，我听不动英语’ ‘please speak Chinese, I don’t understand English’. So I ordered, and she said in in English ‘wait 2 minutes’ I gave that blank stare again and said ‘不动’, she stuck two fingers up at me as if to emphasize the two minutes, which only made me laugh, unfortunately she didn’t get the joke! 🙂
It seems logical to me, to first use the language of the country that we are in (i.e. Chinese), then if the customer doesn’t understand to revert to another language, but to assume this is quite offensive. It’s like seeing someone in the UK who looks asian and immediatly speaking Chinese to them.
Probably some bright spark in the Mcdonalds managment has told their employess to always speak English to foreigners – seemingly even if they don’t understand…
It still astounds me that in the year 2006, how people can remain so insular looking, lacking such basic common sense, afterall Changchun is only 300 miles from Russia and last time I checked they don’t speak English.
I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a Western born Asian who speaks English but no Chinese.