Thursday, April 23, 2009

English As My Second Language

So being in China is forcing me to re-learn English...well at least certain words. I have been finding that through the activities that Timmy and I participate in, we have quite a diverse and international group of friends and acquaintances. Most of these friends are non-American, but all speak English. It truly is amazing how you can be in a conversation with someone who is speaking the same language, but between their accent and different vocabulary, barely understand a word they are saying. Here is a vocabulary list.

crisp = potato chip
biscuit = cookie
fag = cigarette
pram = baby stroller
cot = baby crib
lue = bathroom
lift = elevator
jelly = gelatin dessert like jello
jam = jam or jelly
bangers & mash = sausage and mashed potatoes

The words are not new words, they just don't mean what I thought they meant. So picture me having a conversation with another mom about toddler sleeping habits. She keeps saying that her son still sleeps in "a cot." In my mind cots are used in the military or camping, so I am thinking that her kid sleeps on a military cot.
In another conversation about what to eat for breakfast, I said that Scott likes jelly on his toast. The looks I got from people were of utter confusion which makes sense if you thought I just said Scott likes Jello on his toast. Yep, that would be weird.
And finally I was speaking to a dad at a playgroup and he was telling a story and kept using the word "fag," like, "and the guard had a radio in one hand and a fag hanging out of his mouth..." I was a little taken aback by this, but eventually realized that is not a nasty word in some parts of the world.

I guess being in China is making me appreciate being an American. In some ways we seem to be set apart, for better or for worse. I have had more than one person ask me what people do in the US with the economy so bad. I had to explain that some people really do lose their jobs and end up on the street. It was like that was an impossibility in people's minds, as if that can't happen in America, the land of opportunity. We are really thankful to be here in Shanghai, and thankful that Scott still has a job.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I totally can relate to re-learning English. We had lots of ex-pat friends in Kuwait and during our weekly Mah Jong there were a few curious conversations that required interpreting.