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How to politely escape from “English practice”?


Friday
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Many strangers seek me out to practice English. This is really getting annoying, as they tend to start out very directly, almost “You will now speak English with me”, ignoring the fact that I'm enjoying a quiet read on a park bench, etc. and coming at me with many questions, most of which aren't suitable for conversation with a stranger. Some offer to help me practice Chinese, but don't bother to try to determine my level.

 

Some have figured out my routine and find me regularly. Finding a new park or changing my route is rather troublesome. Walking away doesn't work, as they can easily follow. I've tried various ways to politely say “no”. Gestures like pointing to my book aren't noticed. I know Chinese tend to use indirect language to politely refuse someone, but the ways I tried didn't work.

 

Has anyone found some words to politely escape this?

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Ive never had this problem before (not consistently at least). where do you live?

 

the people who approach you are fluent in English? I mean how long do these conversations last? 

How good is your Chinese?

 

Maybe it is time to stop being that polite. But in order to get understood I suggest you talk with them in Chinese and I think you do not need any indirect approach in this case.

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How to politely escape from “English practice”?

 

The problem with your question is the adverb. Remove "politely" from the question, and it becomes easy.

 

Yesterday I was in a situation in which an unwelcome stranger tried to chew my ear off. It was a very inopportune time and I first tried several polite ways to end it. They didn't work. I finally said, "不好意思,我不要跟你聊天。"  That's all there was to it.

 

不好意思 softens the refusal a little bit, but it still was not terribly polite on my part.

 

Chinese are notorious for invading personal space if you allow it. You don't need to be too delicate about this issue.

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If doing that isn't polite enough for you just lie and tell them in Chinese that you made a "language pledge" at your Chinese school where you're only allowed to speak Chinese for "x" period of time. Apologise and say you aren't willing to break it. Then ask them if you can speak in Chinese together instead.

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Haha!

This sounds like a funny situation. Do you usually study at a University's park? It seems you are getting a high concentration of people wanting to study. 

This seems like very unusual behavior (but I've never been to China, so that might be common) 

 

Friday, are you a beautiful girl or a handsome stud? I can't tell from your online nickname, but being either one might contribute to why you are getting so much attention

since men/women might be actually flirting with you.

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Some have figured out my routine and find me regularly

 

 

That is a little bit messed up.

 

Honestly, I think someone who is confident enough to walk up to a complete stranger and engage them in conversation in their second language is probably the kind of person that can handle someone turning around and walking away mid-conversation.  I think you might be worried about upsetting people, or seeming like a jerk, and as you can see from the responses here the sooner you over come that problem the better.  You are being unfairly engaged in conversation and you have the right to refuse.  

 

It sucks that they bother you when you're having a nice sit down and reading a book.  After a few questions I'd probably say 不好意思,我在看书 and then if they continued to engage me I'd start getting pretty blunt.  Ultimately though, you'll probably have to move somewhere else.

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I think it helps to remind yourself that they wouldn't do that to a fellow Chinese, quite simply because it's rude in their culture as well. But because you're an outsider they feel they can get away with it. Nothing lost in translation, they quite simply don't care about your subtle signals, so act accordingly. 

 

In my opinion we should clearly differentiate between cultural differences (which exist of course) and rude behavior. I have many cultured and polite Chinese friends who refuse to accept bad manners, and that's not because they're westernized, but simply because they set standards for themselves and their family, perfectly in accordance with traditional Chinese culture and teaching. 

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#10 -- @Simon

 

I think it helps to remind yourself that they wouldn't do that to a fellow Chinese, quite simply because it's rude in their culture as well. But because you're an outsider they feel they can get away with it. Nothing lost in translation, they quite simply don't care about your subtle signals, so act accordingly.

 

Agree with @Simon_CH. Well said.

 

To the Original Poster: You are going to need to become a little more thick-skinned about this issue, especially if you live in a part of a major city where locals expect to find English-speaking foreigners. I live in Kunming, in an older part of the city, and it very rarely happens to me. Plus, when it does, I usually don't really mind.

 

But as a general tip, in order to live here in harmony with the local people, it helps a lot if you can clearly define what you want and don't want, and then clearly express it. Don't expect subtle hints and beating about the bush to work.

 

#9 -- @Somethingfunny --

 

I think you might be worried about upsetting people, or seeming like a jerk, and as you can see from the responses here the sooner you over come that problem the better.  You are being unfairly engaged in conversation and you have the right to refuse.

 

OP -- You are getting lots of golden advice here from people who know how to get along in China. Hope you take it to heart. It will make your time here much more pleasant.

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Indeed. Lots of great advice here. The English vultures! You can see them circling around and then swoop.

 

When I was a younger buck, I used to get a bit of this in the good ole days of Chengdu (2000-2003). I would also be direct, rude, and never speak English:

 

听不懂!听不懂!啊?什么?!?什么?!?什么?!?

 

They will keep speaking English because they see you're a Westerner “so you MUST speak English”. Don't give them any English.

 

Finally...

 

我是冰岛人。我说冰岛语。

 

I ended up turning the tables on the English vultures and had a lot of fun messing with them like that. Huzzah!

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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Oh for crying out loud, nothing I wrote deserved a minus one downvote. It's the absolute truth. Deal politely with English vultures and see where that gets you. Sheesh.

 

Oh! Looks like I need to follow my own advice and get some thicker skin. Haha!  :lol:

 

Haha! Maybe a Chinese English vulture is lurking here and downvoted me. Ha!  :lol:

 

A good evening to all.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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somethingfunny, that is indeed funny.

 

Yeah, my crew used to say we speak German, French, Spanish, but then would run into people who spoke these languages, hence my 我是冰岛人 line. Needless to say, we never ran into anyone who knew any Icelandic.

 

We were also telling people we spoke the 荷兰语。

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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