colloquially confusing

Think dumpling and soy sauce.
Sharaun made it safe to Taiwan… and she seems to have adjusted to the time zone with no effort at all. Slept through her fist night fine and was up and out last night after a small nap. We tackled one of the local pubs near the hotel with a couple buddies of mine who work at the hotel bar (somehow, my life in Taiwan revolves around being at bars, people who work at bars, just… bars…). We had some drinks, some food, and some good broken-English talking. I took her out to a semi-touristy dumpling place for lunch, and she seemed to dig on the grub… although she is sorely lacking in the chopstick kung-fu department. Her first dumpling slipped from her weak grip at about six inches off the table – splashing down into a plateful of vinegar and soy sauce, the impact sending liquid to all four corners of the table and her shirt. But you gotta admire the effort.

Some of what I like being over here so much for is the fact that there are so many people interested in just talking to you to improve their English. I love being the “tutor” in a situation where someone is honestly asking a question about your native language. Lately, I’ve been chatting via MSN with a girl I know who lives outside Taipei – and she IM’d me an English question that I thought was kinda cool. Seems her English teacher and her were making plans over IM to go get some dinner and see a movie, and at one point she asked him if he would “buy dinner.” He replied that, yes, he would “buy dinner” if she would “get it.” The confusion came from the usage of “buy” and “get” when combined with dinner. She assumed he meant he’d pick up dinner and he assumed she’d do the same, and no one ended up bringing the cheeseburgers. So, she asked me – where did she go wrong? The intent was for her to actually bring the dinner, and that he would pay her back when she got there – but the sentence “I will buy it if you get it,” messed it all up. Really, that sentence is kinda confusing, and IMO could’ve been better worded as, “I will pay for the dinner if you bring it.”

Anyway, as I was trying to explain this to her, I was running through the scenario in my head with me in her place and another native-English speaker in his. That’s when I realized that this could potentially be a confusing situation to even a native speaker – and, when I also saw the chance to teach her a little unconventional English that I could see myself using in the same situation. If someone told me, “I will get dinner,” a possible response from me might be, “Pay-get or get-get?” Now, to someone learning English that may make no sense whatsoever, but I think most native speakers would get the idea that I’m trying to clarify the intended usage of the word “get.” I thought it was an interesting situational example of some unconventional phraseology. And while perhaps a bit unrefined or improper, I think the “pay-get or get-get” question is definitely valid English for today’s generation. And that’s the kind of English they seem to be most interested in, young-peoples’ speaking-English.

Written for yesterday, never posted:

I am a walking zombie. I’m beginning to think it’s not the timezone thing that beats me down, it’s my Taiwan sleep patterns. Back to the hotel for three of four hours sleep, up again for a meeting scheduled on US time, into the office, nap when you can. It’s less of a sleeping-waking pattern and more of a deprivation experiment, which I suppose could also account for my susceptibility to this bug that I’ve caught. That, and the fact that my swearing-off cigarettes lasted a whole two days before I was kidnapped, tied up, and forced to smoke a couple while drinking beer with the guys the other night. But I maintain folks, I maintain and I will continue to maintain.

Two weeks in Taiwan will do wonders for your Chinese. I daresay I can understand every 10th word spoken in about 80% of the sentences I hear (I’m pretty sure that having to qualify “every 10th word” with “about 80%” of the time means I actually understand less than every 10th word, but it’s the only way I could get at what I mean). In some instances, I can follow a conversation surprisingly well. The problem is, my ear can’t tell the difference between true Mandarin and the local Taiwanese dialect – so I’m sure there are times where I’m populating my mental cross-reference database with a mixture of words. If I were to speculate, I think living in Taiwan for 6mos might be enough to me to have a passing hold on the language. I really wish I could learn it, I think it would be so cool to say I speak Chinese. It would be even cooler if, when I say I can speak Chinese, I really can speak Chinese.

Although I disagree with it, Tiny Minx Tapes’ review of the new Nine Inch Nails album is flippin’ hilarious – check it out.

Peace out.

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