Sunday, July 20, 2008
Trying to Communicate
Last night Rachel and I grabbed a cab home from the pub. Rachel, as always, began by telling the cabbie in Chinese where we want to go. After this the two might converse for a few minutes and that's that. Well, this time the man tried to tell her something that she didn't quite get, and so to elaborate he began writing with his finger the Chinese characters for the words on the cab roof. This was hilarious to me as it is well known among foreign students who study Chinese that the characters are the most difficult part. The learning of them comes last, after being able to understand the voiced language and being able to speak it yourself. So writing the characters when someone doesn't understand what you're voicing doesn't help. Ever. Yet time and time again people will do this. Even to me, a foreigner who obviously does not know Chinese. Someone will try to talk to me in Chinese or Shanghai-ese, and I shrug, tell them "sorry," and begin to walk away, when they wave for me to wait and type out the symbols on their cell phones or grab the nearest pen and pencil to write out the characters. Reeeeeaaaal slow, as though that will help too. It's quite comical. So last night when the cabbie began scratching out the complicated characters upside down, on the roof of the cab, in the dark of night, it was just too funny.