Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Englishman in Taipei IV

Being English in Taipei could even slow your progress to the bedroom if you used the wrong word.

Lucy Chen was an English major at University getting ready for her life changing experience in the great USA.

She was a nice girl, but clearly interested in practicing her English, hanging on my every word and not because she was interested in anything i had to say.

I enjoyed dating girls like this, watching their expressions and nervous excitement. She had been studying for 10 years, and she had always feared that it might not work, but now she was talking to a foreigner - The foreigner asked questions, the answer she had studied worked, foreigner understood, we were communicating...Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Still it could be slow waiting while she sought to check the word or phrase against the million textbooks she had memorized word for word. You could see her systemically dredging up chapter, unit, and then page, remembering the context in which it was used, cross-referencing with what you said before interpreting a meaning.

That day had another problem. In the afternoon I had spent alot of time talking to English people and slipped back into English mode. She had already asked several questions when I had used 'Englishisms' and this had slowed things down. I had to concentrate really hard on at least removing as much British English vocabulary as i could. I was afraid i might blow this - and she was really pretty.

“Let’s move onto a question from chapter five customs and culture…Sub-heading one, Going to Strange Western Man’s Flat!”I said before realizing my mistake.

“Flat? Why you say go to flat?”

“Sorry, apartment!”I said.

“Why you say flat?” She was beginning to panic: maybe, the book was wrong and it had all been for nothing.

“Doesn’t matter!”

“No, please why you say flat?” I knew I was going to have to explain. A pillar of her existence had been challenged.

“It is English for apartment. Same meaning.” She made a sentence in her head, but she was worried now that she was wasting her time talking to an Englishman.

“England has a lot of different words?”she asked.

“Not so many! Now come back to my apartment…flat…there you go, one new word already tonight…and I will explain some more later. I heard Americans don’t understand, ‘shag.’”

“Shag? Yes…No, I never hear that.”

She came back to my apartment, looked through my photos, and said she thought we could be good friends.

Oh, the pain of being English.

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