Getting stuck in the translation

>I am loving China. We have had some things get stuck between what we ask for and what we get. You could call it getting stuck in the translation. Only two individuals in our group can speak Chinese. Jerry, for whom Chinese is his first language, and me, but my Chinese is fairly rudimentary. I can say I want, don’t want, need, or even like something.

On the other hand, it is amazing how many people speak English. While many can only speak as much English as I can Chinese, they try so hard to understand and help. We find many things get confused or lost when speaking with the locals, but both parties laugh and then try again.

Here are a few examples for you. My aunt, Tonya, arrived in the hotel late during the night. When we woke in the morning Tina called the front desk to be connected with her sister. “Wei, ni hao. Hello.” (This is how the front desk answers the phone.) “Yes, I would like the room number for Tonya P.” “Toya P?” “Yes, please.” “Just a minute.” “Okay.” At that point the front desk hung up the phone.

Approximately 15 minutes later, there was a knock at Tina’s door. On the other side was one of the maids. “Ni hao,” she said and held out a roll of toilet paper. Confused, the roll was accepted and the door closed again. Looking at the roll of toilet paper, Tina realized that they had mistaken Tonya P. for toilet paper. We have all found that so funny and we can’t even pass toilet paper in any of the small markets without bursting into giggles. Tonya herself grins and on occasion she will pick up a roll and hand it to Tina. They giggle so hard, they remind me of school girls.

The other incident happened this evening. The electric kettle for the hot water wasn’t working in Tina’s room. (I think I am starting to see a pattern here.) ;-) Tina asked me to call the front desk. I wasn’t thinking much so I didn’t explain what I wanted. I told the front desk that the hot water wasn’t working. The receptionist fumbled the words out of her mouth. “The kettle?” she asked. “Yes.” “Okay, just a moment.” The line clicked silent and I sat back to catch up on my email. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. It opened to reveal a woman holding a towel. The towel was accepted and with some surprise, was discovered to be warm. We all had a good laugh and I am now settled comfortably with my originally desired cup of tea. Tonight, I am drinking a Tai Wan Milk Oolong. What is in your cup?

Virtual cheers everyone!

Taylor

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2 thoughts on “Getting stuck in the translation”

  1. I stayed in China for 3 weeks back in the summer of 2010 and I LOVED IT! Nearly 2 weeks in south China (Guangzhou) and a little over a week in Beijing. I miss the wonderful kind and FUNNY (and ever so helpful) people of China. The things you described sound so familiar! How is the FOOD?? There is a hot pot restaurant in Beijing that is superb. (near the embassies and a long expensive/designer strip mall area) The Peking Duck is to die for….please don’t leave Beijing without going to the best Peking Duck restaurant ever. Melt in your mouth! (my mouth is watering now just from the memory YUM!)

    When I arrived in Guangzhou my hostess had discreetly left a package of individual packages of kleenex on my bed. I thought ‘my allergies are okay’…..HA….well if you leave the house you need those packages of kleenex to wipe your hands and for use in the squatty potties as no restaurant or rest area (except the airport) supplies tissue. (Luckily hotels provide TP! LOLOL)

    I am lucky I have adopted family in Guangzhou and in Beijing. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Enjoy your stay!!

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    1. Our stay was magnificent! Peling duck is wonderful. We are total fans now! We could not believe that whole birds could
      range from $ 8 to $ 20 depending on the restaurant. When we order Peking Duck in the US, the restaurants ask nearly $ 100
      for such a thing. In China, the bird is better, fresher, more flavorful, and as mentioned “to die for.” Everyone should
      have a chance to do such a trip. Without the addition of Jerry to our family we would not have done such a thing.
      And the tissues are a crack up! The squatty potties do take some getting used to, but we learned quickly that females
      can aim!

      China is beautiful!

      Tina

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