I want to sound a warning bell for all those mid-level students of Chinese: Be careful of what you don’t understand.
I’ve been here studying Chinese for two years, and as most students know getting the language does not happen in a steady upward curve. But lately, I’ve been on a high. I work part-time in a children’s English school, and am using Chinese more regularly to talk with my co-teachers; so last week some of the girls asked me out to a local club. They wanted me to put my progress to the test.
While we were there, we met a couple of cute 20-something year old guys. The girls were hesitant to talk with them, so I took the direct Western approach and asked the guys to sit down for a drink. Then I started to practice.
What I took away from the conversation was that they were car salesmen who worked at a Toyota dealership. Still, I was unclear about some things. For example, one of the guys told me that his very expensive designer bag was a gift from a satisfied customer. I thought this was very odd. Why do people in Taiwan give car salesmen extravagant gifts after buying a car?
The next night, the one with the expensive bag called me and asked me out. We met at a coffee shop near his house that had a quite nice chicken curry special on. I was naturally surprised when the attendant came over to refill our water glasses – not only because he wanted to refill the water glasses but also because he asked me a very strange question. He asked me if I enjoyed the “chicken man”.
When we got the bill, my date was unhappy that I expected him to pay for his dinner, but still invited me back to his house. When we got to his house, he asked me to settle on a price. I didn’t understand his meaning, so I left. On the bus ride home, I realized my wallet was 2000 dollars lighter.
Did he steal my money? Should I call the police?
— Not Getting It
Dear Not Getting It;
Do you realize what the homonym for “chicken” in Chinese is?
— David Lee Roth lives, MeiGui
(Originally published in hard copy of The China Post, 12/6/08)
Read MeiGui’s blog: <a href=http://www.rosannelin.com>rosannelin.com</a>