Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Latest Form of Amusement

Lately I've been amusing myself around Beijing by trying out my basic Chinese on unsuspecting Chinese people: cab drivers, my ayi, friends' drivers, etc.

And I am making progress. I'll recount several recent conversations I had recently, using my understanding of what was being said, not the actual Chinese. Because I'll be laughed at by real Chinese speakers otherwise.

On Tuesday, I asked my ayi if she was going to be here on Friday. Yes, she said.
And are you going home for spring festival? I asked.
Yes, to Henan province.
Then she asked me where I was going.
To the Philippines, I said.
Then she asked me if my daughter had left the country (here, we are in the realm of my grasping at the gist, not in the realm of perfect understanding).
No, she's here in Beijing, but she'll be coming with us to the Philippines, I said (I think).

Yesterday, in a cab, I decided to make small talk.
It's cold today! I said.
Yes, but the air is clear because the wind is blowing, the driver said.
Are you going home for the holiday? I asked (I think).
Yes, to ??? (I didn't recognize the name)
Where are you from?
I'm American, but I live in Beijing, I said.
When I paid and wished him a happy new year, he grinned, looking both delighted and surprised. And then wished me the same.

In a second cab later, I tried to comment on a song on the radio.
That's pretty, I said.
Then I realized I had used "piao liang" instead of "hao ting" (sounds good) so I corrected myself. The cab driver grinned and jacked up the sound. He said the music was some word I couldn't understand, so we just smiled at each other. And again I wished him happy new year at the end and received a huge smile in return.

I feel like some kind of ambassador of small talk.

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