Adventures with Language, Part II: “Enough! Enough!”
For me, the real test of language when living (or even just traveling) abroad is taking a taxi. In Asia, as a general rule, I generally have considerably more confidence taking a bus. The exception is the Philippines, where their English is excellent (well, depending on what island you’re on) — there, I had wonderful conversations with friendly taxi drivers eager to answer my questions about their country’s history. What? You mean most people DON’T ask taxi drivers for history lessons?
When I lived in Korea, taxi riding was an art that took me about three months to master. Had I been living in Seoul, it would have been a lot easier, but living in a small city, Korean drivers simply could not understand me if I pronounced anything even slightly different from perfect. On more than one occasion, they simply shook their heads and drove off to pick up someone with better language skills. In China, I find that they are more willing to try to figure out what I’m saying, though there are still plenty of mishaps.
A few weeks ago, I had a major China accomplishment: I managed to tell a taxi where to take me, in Chinese, twice! And we actually got where we wanted to go! Well, almost. For going home, the driver didn’t know exactly where my apartment complex was. I forgot the word for “turn left,” so I couldn’t correct him when he headed for the yacht club instead of the apartment complex (I live in a city that is famous for sailing). I kept saying “no”, but that did nothing. Finally, realizing that there was no way I could correct him without the word “left”, I just called out “Gou le! Gou le!” (thinking that that meant “We’ve arrived.”) As I realized during my next Chinese lesson (to the great amusement of my teacher), what I actually said to him was “Enough! Enough!” (I should have said “daole”.) Oh well; he stopped!
Last night, I actually remembered the correct vocabulary with my taxi driver; however, he completely ignored me! He was determined to drop me off at the front gate, no matter how much I begged and squirmed! So, I got a much longer walk home than I had initially planned. I guess I’ll have to ask my Chinese teacher to teach me some stronger words. The phrase “Yes, I am a foreigner, but I really do know where I need to go,” might come in handy. Or perhaps, “I am a lazy American and I don’t feel like walking two blocks in the rain while carrying two laptops and a boatload of sophomore history homework. Could you please drop me off here?” (That one might take me a little longer to master.)
On the bright side, these language “adventures” have been giving me rich fodder for my next book (after I finally sit down and finish Sidhe Eyes, that is.)
Posted on September 11, 2011, in China, Humor, Language, Stephanie Thompson and tagged China, Korea, language barriers, living abroad, living overseas, Qingdao, South Korea, taxi. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.