Monday, April 20, 2009

Taiwan characters: Eric and studying Chinese VI

John gave Eric some advice that was to change his attitude towards studying Chinese.

A couple of months after the language exchange debacle Eric regained his composure and started to complain again about the Taiwanese trying to exploit him to learn English - Let me make it clear: Eric wasn't alone making this complaint; the bars of Taipei were filled with people doing the same.

Anyway, the truth was Eric could now already speak pretty decent Chinese, so what he was really seeking was an environment that would make him use it daily - he was still an English teacher, going home to talk to his foreign friends; like most of us he wanted to put his language skills to use.

John had tried to help by arranging him a date but it went wrong again. Shannon, beyond her name, couldn’t speak English so it made perfect sense to fix her up with Eric...At least John thought so.

“How was the bird? I wouldn’t ‘ave minded, but for the fact I don’t like having a conversation through an electronic dictionary - and, having to teach for a living I would have probably topped myself before the main course,” said John.

“It wasn’t for me... She works on a makeup counter, man,” said Eric.

“You are a funny one,” said John expecting to leave it like that, but then: “I’m sorry, but you moan all the fucking time about not having anyone to speak Chinese to and then refuse every fucking opportunity. There are plenty of people in this country who can’t speak a word of English yet you are too much of a bloody snob to talk to them.”

Over the next few weeks, as he spoke to shop assistants, taxi drivers, people running stalls in the night market, old people, motorbike mechanics, engineers, in fact just about everyone apart from early twenties middle class, university educated girls, he had to admit there was alot of truth to what John said. Taxi drivers didn’t need to be chased down - Once they had a whiff that you could speak Chinese they talked non stop, and ignored your every grammar or tonal mistake. He had to admit these things.

A few later later. "Jesus, man. I have been thinking – we only speak to young educated Taiwanese females,” said Eric.

“What do you mean?” replied John.

“I mean we don’t talk to the rest of the Taiwan population…not for any time anyway.”

“Inspiring mate. And it took you two fucking years to work that out…As I said: me because I have no choice; you, because you are a stuck up twat.”

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