Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Chinese speaking English



In a cafe in Vermont, an eastern suburb of Melbourne, two Aussie guys are having a conversation. They are having their Saturday afternoon caffeine shot in a local bakery cum cafe.

"When you ask them a question, they simply stare you in the eye - stupidly" one guy refers to his experience with Chinese migrants in Australia.

"You know, they cannot even speak English, they must be stupid or something. I cannot understand why they even bother to come here" his friend replies.

In another part of town a shop assistant in a Louis Vuitton store approaches a customer.

"Good afternoon - how are you?" a well-trained shop assistant would ask an open question and always start a dialogue with a greeting.

Ignoring the Australian shop assistant, the Chinese lady and her friend continues looking at a handbag. Instinctively knowing when to keep his distance, the shop assistant politely retreats keeping vigilant on the Chinese customer from afar.

He has started a course in basic conversational Chinese and after a few months is able to decipher basic words. Tuning into the conversation the shop assistant hears these words in Chinese and manage to interpret the conversation literally.

"xi huan ma?" do you like it? questions her friend. (do you like it?)
"ma ma hu hu" horse horse tiger tiger - she replies. (its ok)
"Ma shang mai la" on top of horse buy la! - getting impatient (buy it quickly)
"Wo la du zi" I am pulling belly (I am getting a tummy ache)
"Huang se hen pei ni" yellow suits you - compliments her friend (yellow suits you)

Knowing that majority of their customers are from mainland China, Louis Vuitton insist that their full time staff attends a basic Chinese conversational course. The shop assistant by now is into his 6th week of his course and he realises his level of his Chinese is not quite up to scratch but he is sure his literal translation is not wrong. However, the conversation he heard is not making sense to him, especially the part about being on top of a horse, tigers and something about pulling belly. 

But queuing in on the comment about the yellow colour he zooms into the pair and compliments the yellow handbag the Chinese lady is looking at.

"zhe ge hen piao liang. hen pei ni" this is very beautiful and it suits you. The shop assistant dredging up enough Chinese to compliment the lady's selection.

A good shop assistant would comment on the product and subtly compliments a customer's choice.

Much to the surprise of the shop assistant the lady replies "Yes, I like....."

"Try it" queuing into the Chinese customer's choice. He takes the LV bag off the shelf and straps it around the arms of the customer. He stands back and admires the A$5,000 handbag on the customer.

Then without warning the question came out of the customer's mouth:

"This make out of beef or pork?" pointing to the handbag.

Without flinching nor letting out his explosive urge to laugh the shop assistant replies:

"Its made of pork. Pork is pre-dried and re-oiled before making bag!"  The handbag is made from pigskin specially from Papua New Guinea

"Re-oiled? Waaaa!" a final smile from the Chinese customer.

"OK I buy. Also the little pig?" pointing to a purse - with a A$2,500 price tag.

With a smile on his face, the shop assistant hands the customer a receipt for $7,500, wrapping the two items with utmost care and with both hands hands the two items to the Chinese customer.

Without a word or smile, the customer walks out of the shop.

By this time the two Aussie blokes in Vermont are finishing their two cafe lattes. After paying A$7 they both walk out of the cafe accidentally brushing a Chinese student.

"Bloody stupid Chinese" staring at the young student who is tucking hungrily into a bag of chips.


Even Louis Vuitton is realising the world is changing - I hope these two blokes wake up one day.


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