Campus Life, China, Communication, Cultural Differences, Language

Eat Your Heart Out

There are many charming things about life in a non-English-speaking country. There are usually a few small things that make me smile or laugh out loud. I’ve been trying to take note of these things and write them down. The students’ English names are an example I’ve already shared with you. A small addendum to that would be a male student named Arwen. He could get together with my Aragorn student from Literature 6. Should he be so inclined.

I have two students who are named “Killer”. Last night, Killer was absent and I couldn’t restrain myself from saying, “Killer is absent? That’s good. No one will die tonight.” Duh-duh duh. No one even smiled! Sigh.

In writing class, clichés abound. The favorites are “on the one hand, on the other hand”. Stop that, or I’ll chop off both your hands. “Every coin has two sides”. No, really? “Such-and-such is a double-edged sword” Oh good, there go those “hands” of yours. And “in a word” followed by much more than a single word. What part of that article don’t you understand?

In speaking class, all foods are “delicious” or “not delicious,” life is “colorful and beautiful,” and people are “clever”. Porky Pig has infiltrated all of China as no student fails to end their answer with “that’s all”. The exclamation of choice is “waaaah” which sounds like Mr. Miagi in The Karate Kid.

We eat in the “canteen” which makes me feel like I am either in summer camp or in the Army. Wherever we walk umbrellas as an imminent eye-threat, as the female students do not want to become “black.” Bicycles whiz past with girlfriends sitting side-saddle on the book-rack on the back. Boys carry their girlfriend’s purse. Cell phone conversations begin with “hello” and end with “bye-bye” which initially made me think they were talking to me. Girls wear glasses with no lenses. The drink shops seal the cups with this nifty plastic cover so you can literally throw a bunch of drink in a bag and carry them to class. The art of hand-raising in non-existent. As is the art of queuing.

Just today I received a paper from a student with the following sentence: “the Internet is like a warm beast can eat youth is heart.”

Don’t you wish you were here?

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3 thoughts on “Eat Your Heart Out

  1. Repetitiveness starts to feel normal. You don’t find it odd when people say the same thing over and over again either. Where in China are you? All of the things you’re describing sound very similar to life in Korea, right down to the “waaah.”

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve unfortunately accepted the “delicious” and “not so delicious” descriptors (have you noticed people here use “so” instead of “very”!?) as part of my Chinglish. What excessive adjectives for something so simple. I long for the day when food can just be “good” or “bad” again!

    • I’m not sure what you mean by using so instead of very. Koreans like to use “too” as if it were simply a modifier of intensity, rather than to indicate that something is excessive – with negative connotations, i.e. “There are too many foreigners in Korea.” Many Koreans will say this with a huge smile on their face, a smile that reflects their pride in how “cosmopolitan” they believe the country to have gotten, rather than the implied meaning of “too many” as in “more than I’d like” 😉

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