…I mean that behavior, when your appearance is “objectified” that way, that you are expected or demanded to be an English speaking person and people continue to speak to you in English even if they know they could not and you are trying to continue in Mandarin/Taiwanese (and simultaneously they speak in Mandarin/Taiwanese to others but not to you) and they exclude you from the community this way. [/quote]
This is a rather large assumption, don’t you think? I’m a sociolinguist and my belief is that this phenomenon has more to do with group identity and visual channel cues than a conscious effort to exclude. I think it would also be useful to look at the norms for language use in group situations among Chinese speakers with particular reference to the dialect situation. I’ve been in many situations where people would use their local dialect in front of other Mandarin speakers who didn’t speak it, and no one thought anything of it (and we did ask).
I have had people insist on speaking English, even if I was answering them in Mandarin (or Taiwanese, but I could hardly blame them considering the sad state of my Taiwanese ) but I don’t think I’ve ever felt it was an effort to exclude. After all, if it’s obvious I understand Mandarin, what’s the point? I still know what’s going on, and I’m still using Mandarin as the code to communicate with the rest of the group.
Just not quite sure what you’re getting at.[/quote]
Hmm, seems to me there’s a difference between the two situations you described though.
Since mixed Mandarin/Taiwanese is standard behavior in Taiwan, then they are basically acting the way they would normally act if you were not present. So actually, in that situation, they are treating you less like an outsider by not being particularly sensitive to your inability to comprehend Taiwanese.
But the other situation is one where there does seem to be an implicit classification of the foreigner as a non native speaker of Mandarin, even if you do speak Mandarin. That does present a bit of a conundrum. For foreigners with bad Mandarin, I can kind of see how a Taiwanese person might see it as a way of being on equal terms. They speak bad English while you speak bad Mandarin to them. You’re both equally handicapped. You’re both accomodating each other’s bad language skills.
But it’s happened to me many times where we were not equally handicapped. I was pretty fluent in Mandarin but they were severely handicapped in English. So it’s a bit harder to understand what that means and what drives it.
One obvious explanation is that many Taiwanese hope to improve their English, and practicing with a foreigner is perceived as improving their English, so a percentage of them will simply be consciously trying to practice with their one foreigner friend or in their one encounter with a foreigner. Also, they may simply have a complete lack of awareness of how bad their English is and how futile this form of one off “practice” is. Though the obvious futility of it might be apparent to an English teacher. They may simply be hell bent on practicing for free and choose to ignore how awkward and unpleasant the conversation has become due to the lack of conversational fluency.
A friend of mine here in the US is married to a Taiwanese woman who arrived without almost any English skills (she wasn’t someone who was in the foreigner crowd). Despite seeing me speaking Mandarin to my son, and despite seeing my son speak Mandarin back to me, and despite knowing he is learning Mandarin, she insists on speaking only English to me. But my other friend’s wife in the same social group is Chinese and so they only speak Mandarin to each other. She has classified me as a non native speaker and put me in the English speaking group. It’s probably a good idea for her to speak more English, I just find it interesting how she has made this very clear distinction in her mind.