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repeating conversations

September 12, 2009

Shop Signs in Taiwan

There was a joke in one of my foreign language education classes in grad school about a student of French who went to France and came back upset because no one in France knew their lines to the dialogues. 

I think here in Taiwan, someone actually could memorize "their lines to the dialogue" because they are most likely going to be asked the same questions in nearly the same order . . . .over and over and over again.

However, one thing to be careful of is that the conversation patterns change depending on what phase of your life you are in. 

So, since I've been amused by the conversations I've been having lately, it seems that I'm entering a new phase of repeated conversations.

Here is an actual conversation I had yesterday in Chinese (translated to English by me):

Shop Owner: So, hey, why can you speak Chinese?  You been here long?

Me: Yes, I've been here 7 years. 

Him: Ah,  married?

Me: Yes.

Him: Taiwanese guy?

Me: (with a smile) yes.

Him: Oh yeah!  Taiwanese guys are good guys, aren't they!?!

Me: (with an even bigger smile) yes.  they are pretty good.

Him: yall have a baby?

Me: No, not yet.

Him: Oh, that is just not right!  If you really think we Taiwanese people are good.  You should make a little Taiwanese baby!

Me: Well, we've only been married a year.

Him: (visibly surprised) Oh!  Just a year!  I thought it would be much longer than that since you speak Chinese.  . . .So, uh, hey, you a teacher?

This particular shop owner cracked me up.  He had a very lively
personality and talked with me for a least 20 minutes while I waited in
his shop. 

So, as I hopped on my moped leaving his store, I started thinking, and here are my observations/ponderings:

Observation/Pondering 1:

His reply to the baby question was a new one.  Usually it is followed by something along the lines of "oh, mixed blood babies are beautiful.  I'm sure your baby will be so gorgeous."  

Following, Lawrance's example, I reply to that with "all babies are beautiful."   He can get away with it–they stop that line of commenting with him.  When I'm alone, whoever I'm talking to (especially the grandmas) insist I don't know what I'm talking about because it is a "known fact that mixed blood babies and the most beautiful in the world."  At this point all I can do is smile. (Something Lawrance and I have already talked about is how to help our future children deal with all the compliments they are going to receive while in Taiwan.  But that's another topic for another day.)

Observation/Pondering 2:

The other place this conversation usually takes me is to the fact that we don't have a baby yet.  I mean come on we've been married a full year, surely there is a little one by now . . . or at least one the way!  When the shocked listener finds out, that truly the answer is "no, not yet"  four out five times they will respond "加油" (Jia you)!! 

Jia you is a cheer that roughly translates to something like "Go! Go! Go!"  It is often used to cheer on sports competitors at sporting events or to encourage someone who needs a little encouragement in their studies or to show support to someone who is about to take a test or needs to be brave.

At first I found it quite embarrassing . . . that is because I was listening to it with my American ears.  Once I realized that it just meant something more like "good luck!" or "hope you get what you want soon," it has become much less embarrassing.

Observation/Pondering 3:

I find it funny/interesting that everyone I've spoken with so far about my language skills since I've been married seems to think that having a Taiwanese husband explains why I'm pretty fluent in Chinese.  This is a new one for me and something I've got to puzzle through and figure out.  I mean it totally and completely explains everything they need to know about why I'm here.  Before people always wanted to know why I came . . . and that leads to a good opportunity to share the Gospel, but now that question is gone once they know my husband is Taiwanese. Hmmm . . . 

That's all my ponderings for now. . . back to course planning and syllabus making I must go.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    September 12, 2009 9:36 pm

    Interesting… Like the only reason that you’d be fluent is because youy husband is Taiwanese.
    I would like to hear more about the “mixed babies are the most beautiful” thing. When we have talked to Chinese and Taiwanese Americans… they seem shocked when we tell them that Hannah is Taiwanese. They often tell us that she looks mixed and they think that she’s Kevin’s bio daughter with an Asian mother.
    They tells us she’s cute and all… but seem to want to examine her closely to ask if we’re sure she’s Taiwanese.

  2. September 13, 2009 1:51 am

    I got a kick out of this. After two years of living here and almost that long of being married to a Kenyan, my Swahili still stinks! My poor husband gets told regularly that he needs to really teach me. Meanwhile I am frequently reminded that I have a built in teacher that I should be taking advantage of. Thing is that when he becomes my instructor we both wind up frustrated with me in tears! I’m not sure what it is about marriage that is supposed to make you magically fluent in your spouse’s native tongue!

  3. September 13, 2009 4:12 pm

    Well, I’ll have to agree with those silly Grandmas; my mixed-blood babies are certainly beautiful. ;) Their mixed blood? Spanish, French, English, Scottish, Irish, Native American, German, and African.

  4. September 22, 2009 12:48 pm

    As a fellow married-to-a-Taiwanese-guy-for-a-year lady, I can certainly relate to this conversation! Actually I have to confess that “being married to a Taiwanese person” has become a convenient excuse as to why my Chinese is so good. Basically, someone will ask my why my Chinese is so good, and then I’ll say “I’ve lived here for five years, and I’ve studied it.” And they’ll look at me like they’re waiting for something more, and then finally I’ll say “and my husband is Taiwanese” and then they’ll say “oh” and finally believe me. :)

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