speaking Chinese on a recent trip to Taiwan

August 24, 2009, 02:20 PM posted in General Discussion

I found I was able to cope with most daily life situations fairly easily.  However, there were two circumstances that gave me trouble.  One was eating in restaurants; there was always something on the menu, or some process peculiar to that restaurant that gave me trouble (Brand name stuff at 星巴克 or 麦当劳 etc. is murder).  Cover charges, ordering the stuff to put in a hot pot, and restaurants without written menus are some of the other challenges. (I could always use some combination of English and pantomine to make due, but my objective was to function competently speaking Chinese.)

The other situation was that I have never learned the word for airport terminal.  This deficite got me the call someone who speaks English and pass me the cell phone routine.

I mention these, because I am hoping that the wizards at Cpod can think up some lessons that make these things easier for my next trip, or for the next podie who wants to function solely using Chinese while travelling.

(The hungry traveller series or menu stealer doesn't quite cover all of the possible complexities.  I also don't recall any lesson that involved a discussion with the driver as to where at the airport to be dropped off.)

Profile picture
August 26, 2009, 02:13 AM

Hi mark,

I'm currently studying in China (just a summer course, though), so I can definitely relate to your experience. I've been studying Mandarin for about a year, but since my level is  much higher than that of my 同学们 who have had more than 3 years of instruction (ChinesePod and 自学 seems to be way more effective than conventional classroom study), I frequently have to interpret for them. Imagine having to explain "gynecological problems" that are not pregnancy-related ("他结婚了吗?"), discussing a serious mistake regarding the exchange rate the clerk at 中国银行 made (would have loved to speak English in that situation, but there was no English-speaking employee around) or getting a refund for half a dozen tickets. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer awkwardness of these situations. Nevertheless, I haven't used any English at all for a whole month (apart from writing this comment and looking up stuff), so I couldn't be happier.

Still I feel there are certain situations I'd have trouble coping with, language-wise. Sending a parcel (not via courier), telling the hostel stuff that I've just got an electric shock (那个破插口!), discussing gardens/parks/forests, discussing historical sites, military vocab (there's just a plethora of military-related TV series...)...the conversations I had about these topics were pretty basic at best. I'd also love to be have a few appropriate responses to comments about "Xitele" (I'm German, this kind of "historical reference" DOES come up in conversations with Chinese people from time to time, unfortunately. Marx I can cope with, but this is another matter.) up my sleeve, but I can hardly ask CP to produce a lesson about this ;)

(Regarding the brand name/no written menu issue, as soon as I've returned home, I will compile a list of these somewhat more complicated food items,  ranging from different types of hamburgers to smoothies from the pictures of menus I've taken and post it online.)