Clueless…pt. 2

Now…don’t be too quick to assume that I’ve had no clueless moments since “Clueless…pt. 1”. I’m certain that I have had many, but people are probably trying to help me “save face” by not clueing me in to how clueless I am.

The other day, however, I had a new one. My first thought was, “Oh…there’s a clueless post to share!” :)

We had just finished skyping with Ruth and family and our PTA meeting with the parents, and we were hanging out at the local Thai restaurant (which is SO good!) with our boss (Mingdaw), his wife (Iris), and his mother (Yang Mama). Yang Mama has been away from the school for awhile, as her mother (Mingdaw’s grandmother) has been really ill and in the hospital. She is better now though, and was released from the hospital a day or two before our big Skype event.

Yang Mama doesn’t have much English…but she takes such good care of us, and I really want to be able to talk to her more. So, for about 10 minutes I tried to work out how to say “Your mother went home from the hospital?” in Chinese. Then, for maybe another 5 minutes, I tried to work up the courage to actually give it a shot.

Finally, I decided to give it a go and said (or thought I said): “你的媽媽 去 çš„ 家?” ni(3) de mama(1) qu (4) de jia(1)? But evidently, I really said “你的媽媽出 家?” ni(3) de mama(1) chu(1) jia(1)?

Yang Mama looked a bit confused at first, but then smiled and said “對” (dui4). So, I doublechecked with my boss to see if I’d said it right.

He just started laughing, and then explained why. It seems that, “出 家” (chu1 jia1) is a phrase that means “exit the family.” Apparently, this expression is usually used to indicate that one has become a monk.

So, basically, what I said to Yang Mama was not, “Your mother went home?” but “Your mother became a monk?” :o :o

Like I said…we’re clueless. Fortunately, everyone is really gracious about our attempts to speak Chinese. But really, in my opinion, this newfound ability to make everyone (including ourselves) laugh is not such a bad thing. :D

5 thoughts on “Clueless…pt. 2”

  1. We can’t emphasize this enough…

    …but people are probably trying to help [us] “save face” by not clueing [us] in to how clueless [we are].

    …as it is our state of perpetual existence.

    Think about that: every day, you know you’re being embarrassingly ignorant, but you don’t know when or how. You just know it’s safe to assume it happens on a regular basis. Good thing they’re nice in Yonghe!

  2. OK.. I was laughing so loud that joel could hear me all the way in the other room! I had to read it to him! That was a great post! I am sure they really enjoy you trying to speak thier language.. I bet they sit around talking about how fun it is.. and how they LOVE to see what combination you will come up with next…
    The kids and I are working on “zaocheng hao”, “wo hen hao”and “zaihui”
    well see how much we get laughed at next time we talk..

    zaijian :)

  3. You guy’s are making me feel great about my Hebrew. It’s terrible right now. This semetic stuff is so metaphorical and abstract. At some point when I have a clear thought I’ll post about it directly. Right now I’m trying to think while Meg Sharron is talking in the computer lab. Don’t get me wrong I like high end extraverts.

  4. Jessica,

    I know this is a late response, but your experience was quite funny and brought back personal memories of struggling with language.


    Your comment made me think that all of us should think that about ourselves. Not so much about Western culture in the West, but about belief structures which can be quite important to us from our perspective, but that stick out like a sore thumb (or 6 foot 4 inch big nose foreigner :) ). Don’t know if that’s what you intended, but it made me think for the last several days.

    I wonder how many people are trying to save me the embarrassment?


  5. Owen,

    Your right, I think. These kinds of experiences challenge us to re-evaluate what is important to us in a lot of different ways. Like where we find our personal identity and security (in how other people perceive us or from the one who created us?); or what we consider to be absolute and what is relative. It’s quite an interesting ride finding out just how different peoples’ basic working assumptions can be. And when you see a difference, how do you evaluate it? By what criteria do we judge differences? Which way is better? Some ways are better than others, sometimes ‘better’ is determined by the context, but sometimes it’s not.

    It’s a huge mess, but for us it’s a fascinating one.

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