Life’s little tests

One day while I was at the Cambridge town centre, an Asian man waved me down.

‘Excuse me, are you Chinese?’

‘Oh! Yes.’ Then I remembered that maybe I wasn’t. ‘I mean, no. Well, sort of.’ Ah, an interesting problem that I have often pondered…

He looked so alarmed and disappointed that I snapped out of my reverie to say in Chinese, ‘But I can speak Mandarin.’

He responded in Chinese. ‘Do you know where there is a Chinese food shop?’

I, myself, was heading to the Asian groceries on Mill Road. ‘There are a few down that way. They’re about ten minutes’ walk away.’

‘Ten minutes?! Are there any closer ones?’

‘Erm…’ [What was that word? Oh, I can use another one, I'll use 'groceries'] ‘Did you want groceries?’

‘No… (something something) …my wife is over there and wants to eat Chinese food.’

‘A restaurant?’ I guessed. Phew! This was hard work.

‘Yes! Is there one nearby?’

I immediately thought of the Ugly Duckling, the first Chinese restaurant I had visited in Cambridge. The food was good enough, although expensive. It was kind of tricky to explain where it was, so I said, ‘There’s a map over there. Let’s go have a look at it.’

We crossed the road and stood in front of the big tourist map. ‘So you keep going up this road, which is just there, and when you get to the round-shaped church, you turn left and it’s just there. There’s a Thai restaurant there, too.’

He repeated my instructions and once I nodded, he went back to his party.

Good performance with minimal linguistic awkwardness. Some unconventional phrases. ‘Round shaped church’ was described as ‘circle church’ but the point was understood and clarified with visual aids. However, the closest suitable restaurant was actually Jinling Noodle Bar on Peas Hill. It is cheaper and tastier than Ugly Duckling.

Comprehension: B
Oral: B+
Content: D


One comment

  1. vera says:

    Once, back when I was working at the Telstra Shop, I had to explain phone plans to a bunch of Chinese tourists in Mandarin. There was a lot of pointing and showing, since mobile phones were practically non-existent back when I was learning Chinese, so I never learnt to say anything about them.

    I was nearly through the transaction when I realised I didn’t know what “credit card” was in any form of Chinese (not even in Cantonese). I think I ended up saying “VISA” hahaha…

    (Don’t worry, I know what it is now… just in case that ever happens again…)

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