Aug 23, 2008

The HA? technique.

A conversation in a Chinese shop usually goes like this:

“Hello welcome can I help you.”

“意大利经典.” (A classic Italian sandwich please.)

“你要什么面包?” (What bread would you like?)


But occasionally, and much to my annoyance, the person behind the desk insists on using English, often very difficult to understand English. The conversation goes like this:

“Hello werrrcum, kenn-eye herrp pyu.”

“意大利经典.” (A classic Italian sandwich please.)

“You wanna which-a?” (Pointing to bread)

A confused foreigner might just shrug and try to continue in English, deciphering what the hapless sandwich maker is saying along the way. He or she misses out on a small opportunity to practice his or her Chinese. Although it’s not a large opportunity, as any language learner will tell you, every little opportunity counts, and eventually these snatched conversations go together to form a fluent mandarin speaker.

So if you ever find yourself with someone who stubbornly refuses to speak mandarin to you, I suggest my own special technique for making someone speak mandarin. Try this:

“Hello welcome, can I help you?

“意大利经典.” (A classic Italian sandwich please.)

“You wanna which-a?” (Pointing to bread)

哈?(HA?)”Which-a?” (Pointing again.)


”你要什么面包啊!” (Which bread do you want?)

(Smile of recognition) “哦!白面包。” (Oh! White bread.)


哈?(HA?)”Big/smoh?” (Tries communicating with sign language)

哈?(HA?)”大的还是小的?” (Big or small size?)

“哦!大的.” (Oh! A large one.)


You’ll notice that after each English phrase, you should reply with 哈?(HA?) This makes it clear that you don’t speak English. You might have to reply to a question with 哈 several times before the other person gets the point, but eventually they’ll start speaking Chinese to you.

And finally, I only recommend this for situations when you’re the customer in a shop. The 哈? technique is designed only for those situations when one is being served, and the person doing the serving doesn’t seem to understand that the servee wishes to practice his/her Chinese.

If a friend or one of your peers keeps answering your Chinese questions in English, you’ll need a more subtle approach.


Yiwei said...

^_^ haha,嗯,的确是这样的......

I wish everyone could do just like he wants...foreign friends could speak in Chinese and Chinese coudl try their best to speak in Chinglish (Chinese English :P) What an interesting thing!...

The warm heart helping the others to correct their mistakes is prized.

The ¨HA¨ technique should be helpful to protect ourselves in certain situation but not to hurt people around of you.

Yiwei said...

中国的"国际化"程度非常低......一个国家的发展正如一个人的发展一样,需要有清晰的"目标", 中国为了缩短"国际间差异"在努力着......在实现"目标"之前的这段"漫长"的时间, 我们称之为"曲折的过程"......

对于热爱学习的人, 都不会忘记,在学习"过程"中经常出现的"尴尬局面"吧......

但是,即便出现"错误",我们也不应该放弃努力, 更不能因为他人的"批评"而退缩......尤其学习外语, 更要有"胆量"和"勇气"......:)

Nicholas Cripps said...

I pretended not to be able to speak English while ordering some bubble tea at a shop in Australia, so I pointed to 鳳梨綠茶 and told the owner I didn't know how to say it in English, but I failed miserably because I started stuttering and completely mispronounced everything! Needless to say, I've never been back to that shop since....