English/Chinese Language Problems

A question often asked is about the language problem.  There are two parts of that problem.  One is that some Chinese do not speak any English.  The other is the Chinese who  speak English often have an accent that is sometimes difficult to understand.  The reverse is true for the Chinese understanding our English which also has different accents or is a 2nd language for some tourists.  Taxi drivers almost always do not speak English.  Workers in many hotels, stores, sights, also do not speak any English.  Chinese learn British English in school so some of the words are different like “truck” is a “lorie” in British English and others.  They learn about 6  to 8 thousand words in English while we speak on average of about 12,000  words.  I could only laugh to myself the time that I had to translate a Southern Louisiana accent to their English speaking guide who could not understand them.   I had the same difficulty a few years ago while visiting the southern island of New Zealand.  I often had to repeat my question several times even though they spoke English with a very strong local British account.  It is important to speak Slowly and to use more common words than you usually would do.  Also you would be very surprised at how much slang we use in American English which you should try not to use in order to be better understood.  Language along the large eastern costal cities of China like Beijing and Shanghai is not as difficult as English is a second language in China and more often understood in those areas.  The further inland to the west it becomes more difficult even among some educated.  Those who have some understanding of Chinese often forget there are hundreds of dialects and 57 different  nationalities with their own language.  I started learning Chinese in Beijing but quickly realized that not only was my English spin on Chinese but my accent was very difficult.  I gave up after 5 years  trying.  All my business partners in China speak English although with most I still must speak slowly and kind of learn what words I must use with each of them to be better understood. Also for Chinese people it is a loss of face to ask a foreigner to repeat a  question to them.  I often have to watch their eyes which tells me if they do not understand.  I then rephrase the question.  It is impolite and very difficult for Chinese to say “No” to any request of them.  You will often get an answer like   “We will see if that can be done”   or  “I will see if that is possible”   That often means “No” without losing face for either party.   For any questions on Language or anything else please feel free to contact me anytime.  My name is Dave and I like to share my 26 years of experience of working in China on just about any subject.  Contact me at   interlak@eskimo.com

  Nothing more enjoyable than spending time learning about the Local People!