Thursday, October 13, 2011

The China Diaries: The Small Successes

I made mention in a previous post of my difficulties in expressing that simplest of statements, "I can't speak Chinese." I have exciting news, beloved readers.

I climbed into a taxi tonight, to go home from my weekly Chinese lesson. I told the man where to take me, and he asked me a follow up question which I didn't understand.

“对不起”, I said. Pronounced 'dui bu qi,' it's "I'm sorry." This part has always worked. Never once had a problem with the ole 对不起. (Well, besides the fact that I constantly mix it up with 'bu ke qi,' which is "You're welcome."). The part that comes next is the trouble spot, but I need to learn somehow, so I gathered up my courage and said what has failed so many times before: "我不会说中文". ('Wo bu hui shuo zhong wen,' literally "I am unable to speak Chinese.") I braced myself for the look of incomprehension and the further attempts to communicate with me. Sometimes they pat you on the knee, as though you will understand what they are saying through absorption.

A miracle happened; the cab driver smiled, and nodded, clearly having understood. I ventured further. "我只会说 ('wo zhi hui shuo', "I can only speak")," and then I held up my hand with my fingers close together. That he held up his hand with his fingers in the same position as I did told me that he understood everything. It was a good, if very quiet, cab ride home after that.

* * * * *

Except for the part where he called another driver the Chinese equivalent of a "cunt." That part was loud.

1 comment:

Clayton Murphy said...

Interesting comments on culture and language followed by laugh out loud funny. I do enjoy 'TD' (which is what all the cool kids back in the US are calling it by the way)