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Learning by Using


ganyuehan

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There was a great thread started before called "Practicing Chinese with Chinese is Impossible". I really can understand how some people wanting to learn or practice Chinese found that the locals insist on using English with westerners. However, that's not always a bad thing as many westerners want it that way, and English is an international language. Unfortunately, in order to truly learn a language, you need to use it.

Anyways, in Taiwan I've had similar experiences and found hope in the fact that some individuals and staff at some places(restaurants etc.) are more receptive than others to using Chinese. I've actually found the odd pub where they hope that you will speak Chinese. One example of it being varied is Starbucks. I found that many locations in Taiwan are alright, but have had bad experiences at the one in 大統新世紀(Kaohsiung) and both starbucks in the Taoyuan airport. I don't object if someone answers back in decent English, but I will leave if someone actually tries to tell me to switch to English.

If I were to start a blog or a site listing places where they're more open to westerners using Chinese, would that be a good idea? Lame? Any thoughts or ideas?

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Hmm. Not lame, but.... maybe not very useful for many people. I'm thinking about:

A. - how it would only be useful for people who live in that town/part of town (even if there were places in Beijing listed, I don't think I'd want to bother going across town just because the employees in a certain place prefer to deal in chinese)

B. - staff members in those places might each feel differently (that guy in Starbucks may have just been a jerk, but another guy in same Starbucks, who doesn't care about English so much, might be relieved to hear you order in Chinese.

C. - Staff might change often.

I'm not trying to discourage you, by all means try, and I'd check it out to see how it's going, but maybe some general advice would be more helpful, or could at least be mixed in. For example, we all know that going to Chinese places, not Starbucks or TGIFriday's is a better bet for speaking Chinese.

Any Chinese owned & operated place will probably ONLY speak chinese.

Even in Carrefour and McD's near me they gladly speak chinese even though they could "handle me" in English if they have to. But they don't bat an eyelash in those places when I speak Chinese, in fact they usually respond with a faster higher level than I can handle.:roll:

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Not at all lame, but I'm not sure it would be very useful. For one thing, you'd end up with a long, long list of mom 'n pop places that speak Chinese to anyone as a matter of course, and that would kind of clog up your blog.

For another thing, it's rather predictable. I don't go to that many Starbuckses, but am not at all surprised that the airport one is pressing English on you. They must see a lot of foreigners come by, and are therefore more likely to 1) speak decent English themselves and 2) assume the foreigner doesn't speak Chinese. The other Starbucks that speaks English to me is close the NTNU, which also means lots of foreigners.

And as here2learn says, it depends a lot on the person. A Subway close to my work has one guy who has excellent English and likes to use it, but the rest of the staff doesn't seem all that eager to speak English

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On the Starbucks thing even though I don't have any here, the ones in Chengdu are always so excited to speak Chinese with me. In fact I have become known (even though i go there once or twice every six months) in 3 out of the 10. They are very friendly, they start speaking english I respond in Chinese and they are very happy to switch.

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Hey I was in a Starbucks today and I thought of you! How sweet, eh?:wink: I thought of this thread when I noticed something very odd.... but it makes sense....

When I went in, there were mostly chinese customers, and the place was fairly empty. I ordered in my not-so-great chinese, and the girl responded in chinese, asking me if I wanted it warmed, repeating my order, telling me the price, the change, etc. No problem, not a hitch.

Later, I was still hungry, and I decided to go for it; although expensive for me, I got more food (a stupid apple turnover that stunk; terrible). Within the prior 10 minutes, a whole slew of foreigners had come in - a group of 5 chinese & foreigners, all speaking english, then a foreign couple, then a group of 3-4 foreigners.... so 10 minutes later as I'm ordering with the same girl, she repeated my chinese in english, said the price in english (clearly knowing I could speak chinese!), said the change in english, etc. Every word in english even though I kept speaking chinese.

ha!

So for her it was like "chinese mode" or "english mode".

And I've heard from chinese students it's sometimes difficult to switch back & forth.

Hmm.

:)

Just an odd little thing.

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Actually, that reminds me of one time at the 桃園airport. I ordered a caramel frappuccino and, to be fair, the woman seemed to speak good English, but didn't understand the item which was odd(usually even with each other they use the English name of the beverage). She then asked me to point to it on the menu. I couldn't be bothered finding it on the menu, so I said the Chinese焦糖的星冰樂( If memory serves correctly. Why don't they just call it 冰沙like any normal person). She understood me but didn't like it and really loudly said(in English), "Yes, I know. THIS IS YOUR NUMBER!"

Maybe you're right that it is difficult to switch back and forth, though. Then again, it could also be a face issue. With more people around they want to be seen speaking English. However I'm really impressed with how courteous and professional they are at Kaohsiung location on the corner of 青年路 and 成功路. Another coffee shop where they're fairly receptive to foreigners learning Chinese is the 綠川小鋪 across from TLI on 中山路.

Thanks for tolerating my whining and Chinglish.:lol:

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She understood me but didn't like it and really loudly said(in English), "Yes, I know. THIS IS YOUR NUMBER!"

That's cute. :lol:

I don't go to cafes very often anyway. Can you guys think of places you can go where the employees actually have time to chat for a few minutes? If all you're doing is ordering or paying, they don't really have time to say much else.

STORY #1 - WAITRESS

I struck it rich one time - I went into a tiny little hole-in-the-wall restaurant alone, with almost no other customers. Family owned; daughter (college age) was waitress, mom was behind counter. The girl had nothing else to do, so after asking me some questions about where I was from, etc (she spoke english too), I asked her to sit with me and talk more. She hesitated, but she sat & we talked... after a few minutes her mom yelled at her but I smiled and said no, no, (and in my baby chinese at the time) "我喜欢,他的英文很好!“ - "I like" was all I could think of, but saying the daughter's english was good made mom smile and let her stay with me.

We spoke both languages, and each ended up with a receipt with new words on the back that we taught each other. It was really nice; I still remember it a year later.

STORY #2 - BUDDHIST GIRL

OH! Also, I went to buy something at a small stall/shop near Yonghegong Lama Temple - the girl (again, young) spoke no English, but still enjoyed talking to me for some reason. She was SO smiley and cheerful, and told me some buddhist-related things about the bracelets she sold (I didn't understand a lot of it), and when her friend brought her a handful of chaun'r breads, she insisted on me having one, so I finally accepted. I did end up buying 3 things from her and not haggling (she asked for cheap prices anyway, really), so you COULD say it was a "sales trick", to get me to buy, but it really wasn't. She really felt genuine, and sweet, she made me sit down & chat... I think really she was just bored and happy to say more than prices with a foreigner. And her sweetness and friendliness made me want to buy my things there rather from someone else anyway, to feel I gave HER my 35kuai, not another guy my 30kuai.

So maybe go do some normal business at a VERY small shop/restaurant at a time when it's NOT BUSY.

That's my final conclusion.

I forgot about those for a while. I have to remember that and try my own advice again!

Thanks!

:D

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Because 星 = star, from the Starbuck's name. And they wanted a pretty name for their product.

Thanks. Good observation. Should other places follow their lead? 多那之 -多冰樂 ?

綠川小鋪 -冰沙川? OK so I'm not stocked up in the wit department.

Thanks for sharing those experiences. Two things I think you're right about are: 1.going to a place a bit isolated and not overcrowded 2.Being kind towards others' English/language ability. That will also help prevent you from setting yourself up in case you make a mistake. I will point out that I didn't necessarily mean just ordering, as at some places if they like you, they will not only take your order in Chinese, but chat with you as well.

I struck it rich the other night as well. I went to a pub in Kaohsiung on 五福路在blue fantasy的隔壁. Leave it to me not to take note of the name. The people there really wanted to use Chinese, and even when they did have a question about English, they asked it using Chinese.

Another place I went to was called Mystery Pub on 中興路. I'll post the full name and address when I find the 名片. It was a great night. We talked until 2 or 3 in the morning. I feel bad that I was their only customer, though.

There really are times when it's great and the people are wonderful. Maybe it's just the odd place or person that makes me lose perspective.

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  • 3 months later...

I've started a blog about speaking Mandarin in Taiwan. It's more about places that are receptive and/ or have a good environment for a foreigner using Mandarin.

I've brought this up in a thread before and some members had valid criticisms like it not being useful, and that bad experiences are sometimes due to individuals working there, not the place. However, places in Taiwan can really differ, and the difference between ones that have good environment and great people and the ones that don't can be like night and day. My feeling, though is that if you own a place, you should have your staff trained, even the jerks.

Anyways, I thought I owed some spots in Taiwan their due. These are places that not only let you order, but also were friendly and would chat with you. I will be adding many more spots and will be using more Chinese in the blog, too. I welcome anyone to visit, and correct me if my Chinese or anything else is wrong.

http://speakingchineseintaiwan.blogspot.com/

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