School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

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School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby Taiwan_Student » 30 Apr 2012, 02:21

{EDIT} The title of this thread was changed by the moderator to avoid making a blanket statement. Original title was They don't want us to speak English. In reading some posts, perhaps I was being unfair to this kid. But she merely mirrored the same exact conversations that took place with High School Students, a Taxi Drivers, People on the street in general)


I'm at some art fair and contest with my kid. She's competing and I'm wandering around. This school age girl walks up to me and says "Hello... ha ha ha ha" in a real silly tone of voice that you really get sick of after being here for over thirteen years.

I smile and answer politely "Hello" but in Chinese. I try not to speak English outside She does that stupid double take even though I'm like attached to three other children who look obviously mixed and a Taiwanese wife. Some Chinese is about to rub off somewhere. Ohh. I hate that double take... I also hate that clapping of the hands when they reallize I can understand and speak in Chinese. Heck, my accent and pronunciation is really pathetic.... I should know much more than I do know!

She persists and asks me my name in English. I asked her name in Chinese. She answers "My name is Stephanie" I say in proper Chinese word order.. Stephanie, hello.
I remarked in Chinese of course that her is very pretty.

She asked me in Chinese finally why don't I speak English? I asked her what country are we in? She answered Taiwan. I asked her in Taiwan, what language we speak? She answered Chinese. And I told her that's why I don't want to speak English.

She starts to whine to her friend. ... ohh I hate that pouty whine... But i guess it's really popular because even grown up women do it in the TV Dramas here.. She whine's .. He doesn't speak English...

She had a change of tactic and decided to ask me in a nice way to speak a little English. So I relented and gave her a little English. I also introuced her to my Chidlren who mostly speak Chinese but understand and speak English when they need daddy to do something..

But as I feared.. She was only really interested in saying the few stupid words or dialog in English then go back to her friends to giggle. Though my Chinese is still on the patheic side, I quite a few phrases under my belt. I could have had a decent conversation, perhaps teaching a few new words and even learning a few. But there was really no interest other than spitting a few English words to a foreigner.

Again..this in no way details my normal experience with friends and family but this situation happens quite often. I really don't want to be like two out going teachers I've met when I first came here years ago. They would just say "Fuck You" to al who approach with that silly look.

What goes on in these locals' head. When I was a boy.. I was really annoying. I thought all places were romantic. I would listen to my shortwave radio of distant lands. Every time I ran into a "foreigner" I would attack them. Not really, I'd have a conversation with them. I'd try to suck their brain dry and learn about what it was like where they came from. These kids are not the least bit curious about what adventures we went through, languages we speak, foods we tried (unless it was Taiwanese Food) and all that...

And back to the orginal point.. If I don't say my few monkey English words and let them say theirs they will whine and just say I am no fun.
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby jp_mtl » 30 Apr 2012, 04:15

It's not unusual for kids to act like kids.

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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby PapaAzucar » 30 Apr 2012, 04:39

Taiwan_Student wrote:What goes on in these locals' head. When I was a boy.. I was really annoying. I thought all places were romantic. I would listen to my shortwave radio of distant lands. Every time I ran into a "foreigner" I would attack them. Not really, I'd have a conversation with them. I'd try to suck their brain dry and learn about what it was like where they came from. These kids are not the least bit curious about what adventures we went through, languages we speak, foods we tried (unless it was Taiwanese Food) and all that...

Actually quite the opposite. By approaching you, she is curious about the Westerners and the English language no different than you, as a kid, were interested in "foreigners".
Aside from maybe her teachers, she wants to test her English with someone else, or "suck your brain dry".
And by you speaking Chinese to her (albeit a good practice for you), it hardly helps her improve her own English, or test her own understandings of "foreigners".

Many times kids do what adults consider "stupid things" because they are still learning.
It reminds me of the time when I saw some 3rd graders take off their shoes and they would smell each other's feet.
This of course is idiotic to adults, but it occurred to me that these 3rd graders probably never smelled a feet before and probably just accepted the words that feet smell bad from their parents.
But what exactly is "bad smell", those 3rd graders probably did not have a reference point to compare with, so they had to experience it first-hand to understand.

But with you being the adult, you should be the one with more patience and understanding, and not let this agitate you.
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby ironlady » 30 Apr 2012, 05:14

She probably loves English. She was probably thrilled to have the chance to try it out with a real foreigner.

I couldn't count how many unsuspecting Asians I accosted during my first year of Chinese class in the US. :oops:
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby ichbinjenny » 30 Apr 2012, 06:19

I think your mistake was not talking directly to her. In all seriousness, you should have told her very seriously and teacher-like that she should speak Chinese with you. Kids react well to being told what to do. "Stop whining. If you want to talk to me, speak Chinese. If you do not speak Chinese, we will not have a conversation. Understand?" (And that last "understand" is very important. She will answer -- without even thinking -- in affirmation.)
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby Taiwan_Student » 30 Apr 2012, 09:20

This was an edit to my original post... .
{EDIT} The title of this thread was changed by the moderator to avoid making a blanket statement. Original title was They don't want us to speak English. In reading some posts, perhaps I was being unfair to this kid. But she merely mirrored the same exact conversations that took place with High School Students, a Taxi Drivers, People on the street in general)

More examples.. a man runs practically across the street to be helpful something. But as soon as I say hello in Chinese and try to converse, he looses interest....

Once I was in McDonald's shouting special orders, you know extra sauce, no sauce... a women whose pronunciation led me to believe she could speak English said to me... "Why don't you just speak English?"

I answered, "I have a lot of special orders, I don't think they will understand".
Women: Nervous smile .. says nothing... eyes blink blink
Me in Chinese: You don't understand me, right?
(There were no problem with my order, they understood my Chinese well enough... )

Perhaps I am being unfair to the kid. I must say, children are the most helpful when it comes to learning Chinese. Anyone here long enough knows that many Chinese people just want to practice their English and not just communicate. Or sometimes... they just want to say a few silly English words and are not really interested in learning or listening.
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby Feiren » 30 Apr 2012, 09:33

Taiwan_Student wrote: Though my Chinese is still on the pathetic side
.

This is the main problem. Once your Mandarin is not on the pathetic side you won't have this problem anymore. Go take some classes.

[/quote]

More examples.. a man runs practically across the street to be helpful something. But as soon as I say hello in Chinese and try to converse, he looses interest....


Well, you speak Mandarin, so you probably don't really need any help.


Once I was in McDonald's shouting special orders, you know extra sauce, no sauce... a women whose pronunciation led me to believe she could speak English said to me... "Why don't you just speak English?"

I answered, "I have a lot of special orders, I don't think they will understand".
Women: Nervous smile .. says nothing... eyes blink blink
Me in Chinese: You don't understand me, right?
(There were no problem with my order, they understood my Chinese well enough... )


She obviously thought it would be easier to communicate with you in English. I would guess that she is probably right but too polite to tell you that your Mandarin is hard to understand if not incomprehensible.

Anyone here long enough knows that many Chinese people just want to practice their English and not just communicate. Or sometimes... they just want to say a few silly English words and are not really interested in learning or listening.


Most people in Taiwan are Taiwanese. I ran into a very nice family in Fenqihu the other day who explained with some effort that I should try the agar jelly ice (aiyubing), the specialty of the area. They were having a great time on a family outing and I saw no harm in answering their questions about where I'm from etc. Finally, I agreed that I would try one, and ordered a medium cup less ice with cane sugar in Mandarin. They laughed, I laughed. We then continued the conversation in Mandarin for a few minutes and they were very amused by their mistaken assumption that I couldn't speak Mandarin.Then we all went on enjoying our day without any angst about 'them' not wanting to speak Mandarin or forcing me so speak English.

It's just not that hard.
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby Steviebike » 30 Apr 2012, 10:26

All seems a bit egocentric to me. Why is it about you? Because to me these things are not about me. I get people wanting to speak English to me of all ages, I admire them, it takes guts to do it. So I talk for as much as I can, I might be busy and have to say bye. I guess it might change over time but I can't see it really, as long as people are polite. They don't know if you have been here five minutes or decades, you just stepped into their world. You play your part in the scene, but the play is not yours. Job done. Why should it be annoying even after 13 years? Show a little compassion. It might be that your even more approachable because of your family? How does it compare to being on your own, do you get more attention on your own or less?
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School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby headhonchoII » 30 Apr 2012, 12:01

It was boring to me after 1 year let alone 10 years, I generally ignore this kind of thing unless the person can speak English or is a Lao touzi and then you can genuinely make their day. I find a fair few of the crazie like to yammer some English at me too.
I got over it a long time ago but unfortunately most Taiwanese conversations now start by asking me if we speak english to my son or not or is he mixed when talking to wife. Boring. She lies to them sometimes and they get pissed off but what do they expect , it's none of their business. Kids are kids though, they all have their own personality , if the parents aren't around that means they have a genuine curiosity which can be a good thing and in that case I might humor them a little.
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Re: School-age girl wouldn't speak Chinese to me...

Postby tommy525 » 30 Apr 2012, 12:21

Growing up eurasian in Taipei I used to get asked whenever I went into a store, took a taxi or had any contact with any taiwanese about my family background. It was really tedious and I got tired of that. I would stop at a redlight on my scoot and a taxi driver would roll down the window and ask me about myself. Boring for sure. But I was nice to them although i really wished they would leave me alone.

I think I had a minor epiphany because I thought about it and thought that those who asked me about me were very pleased to meet me and were excited about meeting me. They harbored no ill will. They may only ever see me or talk to me once in their whole lives so why not let them have a good memory of it?

Whereas I will get asked the same questions dozens of times a day, that one person will only ask me once. Let them remember me in a good way.

You couldve let that young lady gone away with a very positive experience of meeting a foreigner. But you were like Scrooge bout it and ruined it for her.
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