Thursday, 27 May 2010

Writer's Workshop - Language Smanguage!

For my 6th Writer's Workshop, I'm choosing this prompt:
"1.) Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you."

Let's see, a while back, I actually blogged about my encounter with a Hong Kong celebrity to which I ended up not knowing what he wrote on my autograph book (cos he scribbled in Chinese, and yes, even though I'm a Chinese, I don't know how to read Chinese thank you very much)

So, yes... for this week's Writer's Workshop, I'm going to tell you another incident where I had to suffer communicating in Chinese again... This time, we go back to about 10 years ago when I was working part-time as a salesgirl at this souvenir shop in a hotel. Heck, come to think of it, this happened about the same time I met the HK celeb...

So anyway, one fine day, this China man walks in (for a while there I thought I sounded like I'm telling a joke.. ;p). so he walked in, looked around and went up to the counter where I was monitoring at, and he asked in Mandarin - "something something something something" (in actual words it would've sound like "shi sho shi sho shi sho ching chong ching chong") Oh whatever...

Actually, I can understand Mandarin. Heck, I can even speak some basic words in it but I have to translate it in my mind from English to Mandarin first before I can utter it out. So, this China man apparently wanted to know where he can photocopies some documents he had and yes, I can totally understand what he's trying to say but my mouth just wouldn't say anything out (cos my brain is still processing!)
In the end, I panicked (cos it seems like I'm taking forever to reply the man) and I said to him in Mandarin "Wo bu jer tau" (which means "I don't know" - you pronounce it as war-poo-jer-tao)

Heh! Clever trick eh?

You can try this if you ever landed yourself in this type of sticky situations :P So the man just shrugged and left the shop.

After a while, I managed to translate out my reply but its too late you see, the China man already left. So then it was my lunch time, I locked up the shop and went to this shopping mall about 5 minutes from the hotel and I had a lunch date with my best friend's sister that day.

She worked in a bookstore in the mall so while waiting for her to punch her timesheet card, I browsed around the bookstore and then, I heard someone asking me "shi sho shi sho shi sho ching chong ching chong"...

Oh crap.... I turned sideways and realized it's the China man AGAIN! Sh*t!!
And guessed what?
I panicked AGAIN! All the translated reply I got in the shop earlier just gone!
So AGAIN, I went "Wo bu jer tau"... :P

The man of course frustrated with my reply again spewed out a bunch of Mandarin words which I definitely understand but couldn't reply in time (brain processing REMEMBER?!!!)

I know he said (translated directly from his Mandarin) "You everything also don't know! What do you know? Every time I ask you said the same thing!" and then he walked off huffing and puffing like a gorilla.

Arghhh.... language smanguage! :(



Kimmy said...

LMAO!!!! I'm first I couldn't get past your "shi sho shi sho ching chong"!!!! LMAO Too funny!!! Great story!! :o)

Stopping by from Mama Kat's!

Steph said...

What if you really didn't know where the copy machine was? What a jerk...even if you told him he still would have huffed and puffed at you I bet!

I am the same way...I need to translate from Cantonese to English in my head, and by that time, people have lost patience and things move on before I can respond. Oh well. Anyways, Happy Thursday!

Erin said...

Are you sure he didn't say "I'm stalking you" how random that he would come up and ask you something else when you weren't even in your own store LOL

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Kimmy!
Glad you enjoyed the post! :D

Hey Steph,
Oh wow, thanks, glad someone else understand my situation! Happy Thursday to you too! :D

Hey Erin!
Nah, I don't think he's stalking me cos he got the surprised look when he saw its me again at the bookstore! :P

~ M ~ said...

Hahahahaha I am cracking up so bad on the chang ching chong part! That's how it sounds doesn't it?
I had problems with Mandarin and as hard as my husband and his friends tried to teach me when we were in China I could not differentiate the sounds that came out of their mouth at all even if my life depends on it hahaha.

Hop over to mine and read my Lost in Translation ;)

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hello ~ M ~

Well, not trying to make fun of my own race, but they do sound like ching chong ching chong to me! Will go over and check out yours! :D

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh my goodness! This totally made me laugh this morning. Hilarious : )

Java said...

You are hysterical! I had tears from laughing!

Language barriers are no fun...but this is funny...sorry for laughing!...not at the story!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Way to have a fall back answer. Much safer than saying yes without understanding. :-) I totally think one of the hardest things about living in a foreign country is having people think you are stupid all the time. It takes so long to think of an answer that half the time they just give up on you. Or start talking to you like you have a mental handicap. It's awesome.

CaJoh said...

I have a hard enough time speaking in one language let alone two. I kind of feel sorry for the guy— you may have been the only one who partially understood what he was saying and both times you said I don't know. I hope he found what he was looking for (Oh poo, I now have U2 stuck in my head).

Thanks for sharing,

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hello Life with Kaishon!
I'm glad I made you laugh! :P

Hey Java,
Thanks for hopping in! Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

Whew... that was a mouthful! Thanks for dropping by! :D

Hi CaJoh!
Hahah... I hope he found what he was looking for too! :P

Cheryl said...

Funny! I love the whole translating to english, than back into mandarin. Hey, you tried!

cheri said...

may i ask what is your first language? and were you ever able to determine what he was saying?

this is too funny :)

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Cheryl!
Yeah, I tried! That's the most important thing right?! :P

Hey Cheri!
My 1st language is English, followed by Cantonese, then Malay. I do understand what the man said, just that I need to process back my reply from English to Cantonese then to Mandarin... Weird huh?

Anonymous said...

:) I enjoyed your post. I'm Italian and though I can speak it, I have to do the whole 'brain processing' thing first too. I've probably frustrated a few people too!

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hello theworkinghousewife!

Glad you enjoyed my post! :D I can pretty much say that nowadays whenever I hit my panic button when I encountered Mandarin speaking people, I definitely will go 'wo pu jer tau' again! Hahaha...

Mama Kat said...

Oh my gosh that's great!! I had a similar answer I always used to answer my teacher's questions in French class. She had me removed from the class. :) People really don't like to hear you don't know anything.

KLZ said...

Over from Mama Kat's.

I love that he huffed and puffed like a gorilla. Men.

Heatherlyn said...

That was funny and worth reading. And I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who takes too long to process foreign language!

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Mama Kat!
Thanks so much for dropping by! Thanks for creating the Writer's Workshop! :D

Hello KLZ!
Haha.. glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for dropping by!

Hi Heatherlyn!
Thank you for reading the post. Have a nice weekend ahead! :D


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