Friday, June 09, 2006

Language Barriers


My heels click click click along the concrete sidewalk without missing a beat.

Louder. “Nee-hao-ma!” He twists his face towards me as he yells it.

“I heard you motherfucker! I’m not Chinese!”


I throw my hands up in exasperation and click click click faster.


In case some people aren’t aware, chances are, an Asian person in New York (or anywhere in America for that matter) has a pretty good handle on the English language. Therefore, it is not necessary to attempt to greet them in their native tongue.

1) It’s obnoxious
2) In a city where a significant percentage of the population is of East Asian descent, your mastery of three whole words, horribly mispronounced, will not impress anyone
3) You’ll probably pick the wrong language (as illustrated above) and accomplish little else than prove the extent of your ignorance

“I can’t stand that shit. When those fucking construction workers start yelling, ‘nee-hao-ma, nee-hao-ma!’ at me. Fucking ridiculous. You don’t see us screaming ‘Hello! Look, I can speak English! Hello!’ at anyone.”

“But we’re in America, everyone speaks English, so they’d expect that we know it.”

“True...but we’re in Queens. Everyone speaks Chinese or Korean. I’d expect that they would know it.”



Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know whats crazy is i get spoken to in everything from tagalong to spanish to tonga and for some reason im always kind of sad that i have to say "im sorry i dont speak..." but i think its funny that i can look phillipino/samoan/hispanic all at once :D

3:22 PM  
Anonymous John said...

My wife is Taiwanese, but has some Taiwan aboriginal blood in her, so she does not look particularly Chinese.

A lot of people (especially men)ask her if she's Thai. That's a loaded question anyway from my perspective, but even more so to her, given how Chinese feel about SE Asians. She usually replies: "You're half right. Thai - wan."

9:58 PM  

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