"I don't speak Japanese" - insult? or misunderstanding?

Hey all,

When I first started studying Mandarin it was back in Canada, and my teacher and tutor were both from Beijing. They used the strong rolling “r” sounds for words like “yixia®”, “yidia®”, “zai na®”. I’ve had to unlearn the rolling “r” while living here in Taiwan, but occassionally I slip up and it sneaks back into my speech.

I had an “r” slip in when speaking to a front desk clerk in a hotel recently. He stopped what he was doing, looked at me, and said “I don’t speak Japanese” in English in what seemed like a really sharp tone.

Was he insulting me? Or was it a case of “I can’t understand what you are saying because foreigners can’t speak Chinese”?

  • R

Both are possibilities. Lately I’ve been pretending I don’t speak English. If anyone ever asks I’ll either say I’m from Israel or Germany and then they’ll shut up. :slight_smile:

He probably thought you were speaking Japanese to him. Any speculation beyond that initial speculation would be, well, speculation. Next time I advise saying “SHEI JIANG RI WEN” in a somewhat sharper tone. That should give you a definite answer :slight_smile:

There are a fair number of locals who lose their shit mentally when you speak Chinese to them.

They either hear:

1-“buzz buzz pop pop”

or

2-“holy SHIT! this creepy ass cracker has deciphered the code!!!” over and over again thus impairing their ability to focus on the content.

If your Zhongwen is passable, just smile, rinse, repeat. Things should work out OK.

if you want to pretend you don’t speak English, shouldn’t you say you are from France?

if you weren’t conversing with him in Mandarin just before that, he probably was just mistaken.

unless your mandarin is so perfect that he can tell that you are speaking with a Chinese accent, otherwise I don’t think he will fault you for slipping a “r” in there, especially not when he is in the service industry.

frankly, most hotel front desk personnels in Taiwan speaks a little Japanese, if not really decent Japanese (from expereince, if you are living in a 3 star above hotel). so if he can’t speak Japanese, that’s his own damn fault :stuck_out_tongue:

You were wearing Asics shoes, so you looked Japanese, therefore you were speaking Japanese.
Just trying out some logic here. :bow:

[quote=“headhonchoII”]You were wearing Asics shoes, so you looked Japanese, therefore you were speaking Japanese.
Just trying out some logic here. :bow:[/quote]

Or: you are white, hence you cannot possibly be speaking Chinese. Impossible. You may however be speaking Japanese, which is by far the more likely scenario. But Chinese? Can’t be, mustn’t be.

I don’t know why but the Subway on Wuxing St is by far the worse place I’ve encountered for this kind of bullshit. Common scenario is I’ll order in Chinese with no problem but the server will insist on using English to fine-tune the order. I’ll say I can’t speak English and can’t we just speak Chinese. And then it all begins again when I get to the cash register…“Is that for here or to go?” “外帶謝謝 “Would you like a cookie with that?” "一個燕麥餅乾謝謝“ :flog:

As the Beastie’s once sang: you gotta fight for your right to speak 中文

I don’t know why but the Subway on Wuxing St is by far the worse place I’ve encountered for this kind of bullshit. Common scenario is I’ll order in Chinese with no problem but the server will insist on using English to fine-tune the order. I’ll say I can’t speak English and can’t we just speak Chinese. And then it all begins again when I get to the cash register…“Is that for here or to go?” “外帶謝謝 “Would you like a cookie with that?” "一個燕麥餅乾謝謝“ :flog:

As the Beastie’s once sang: you gotta fight for your right to speak 中文[/quote]

When this happens to me, I just say very firmly but politely, “Chin chang zhongwen!” as many times as it takes. Since I am as stubborn as a mule, this always works for me.

清唱中文? :discodance:

I’ve finally reached a zen state where it doesn’t bother me and I respond in English. Sometimes :slight_smile:

I think that’s the correct way to deal with it. You have to go with the flow, not resist. The more you resist, the worse you’re making it and the more instances of this kind you will attract into your life. It’s called the Law of Attraction, stupid. :smiley:

That works until you meet someone who speaks German or Hebrew! I’d recommend something more obscure, like Hungarian or Albanian!

That works until you meet someone who speaks German or Hebrew! I’d recommend something more obscure, like Hungarian or Albanian![/quote]

I’ve never met a Taiwanese person who speaks Hebrew and I doubt I ever will. German is a possibility.

I could try Spain instead, but my Spanish is really no bueno.

I don’t know why but the Subway on Wuxing St is by far the worse place I’ve encountered for this kind of bullshit. Common scenario is I’ll order in Chinese with no problem but the server will insist on using English to fine-tune the order. I’ll say I can’t speak English and can’t we just speak Chinese. And then it all begins again when I get to the cash register…“Is that for here or to go?” “外帶謝謝 “Would you like a cookie with that?” "一個燕麥餅乾謝謝“ :flog:

As the Beastie’s once sang: you gotta fight for your right to speak 中文[/quote]
You could just politely say, I appreciate your attempt at speaking English, but my Chinese is much better than your English so let’s stick to a language both of us are good at and avoid any misunderstandings.

[quote=“thefool”]Hey all,

When I first started studying Mandarin it was back in Canada, and my teacher and tutor were both from Beijing. They used the strong rolling “r” sounds for words like “yixia®”, “yidia®”, “zai na®”. I’ve had to unlearn the rolling “r” while living here in Taiwan, but occassionally I slip up and it sneaks back into my speech.

I had an “r” slip in when speaking to a front desk clerk in a hotel recently. He stopped what he was doing, looked at me, and said “I don’t speak Japanese” in English in what seemed like a really sharp tone.

Was he insulting me? Or was it a case of “I can’t understand what you are saying because foreigners can’t speak Chinese”?

  • R[/quote]

Yes; for some reason the language one speaks can really irritate some listeners. This is particularly true for the Chinese-as-a-second-language speakers among us…

Just reply with, “Oh yeah? Cool. I don’t speak Russian. Can we please get back to the conversation?”