Speak­ing English abroad


Special Focus - - Contents - Chen Jing 陈晶

It is well known that English is the most widely used sec­ond lan­guage in the world. How­ever, when trav­el­ing in a coun­try where English is not the mother tongue, English may not be quite an easy thing. This was what I ex­pe­ri­enced in Rus­sia, Cam­bo­dia, and Thai­land.

The lo­cal tour guide told me that the Rus­sians were not good at speak­ing English. I de­cided I would try to prove them wrong. I went to an un­der­ground mall in St. Peters­burg to buy a doll with tra­di­tional Rus­sian clothes. The boss, a lady in her 40s, told me about the de­tails of the doll in Rus­sian. I could guess her mean­ing roughly through her ex­ag­ger­ated body lan­guage. How­ever, when I asked her a ques­tion in English, her ex­pres­sion ap­peared help­less. Then she left me alone. For­tu­nately, a 20-year-old col­lege stu­dent vol­un­teered to be our trans­la­tor. At last, I bought my fa­vorite doll. Later, he told me that he had learned English in school. He told me the el­der gen­er­a­tion did not have a chance to study it as he did. More­over, most of them were not in­ter­ested in learn­ing English in their spare time.

In Angkor Wat, Kampuchea, you could see the kids beg­ging for can­dies or cents in the scenic spots. To get th­ese do­na­tions, they could only speak sim­ple English words ( eg. one dol­lar, candy, thanks)— but they could speak those words quite well. The tourists could meet their de­mands on that con­di­tion. How­ever, while I tried to com­mu­ni­cate with them in English, they quickly ran away. They would find an­other group of tourists and re­peat their re­quests in the same way.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of speak­ing English in Thai­land was the most in­ter­est­ing. In Chi­ang Mai, a prov­ince of Thai­land, speak­ing English to the lo­cals was al­most im­pos­si­ble. No mat­ter how slow I spoke, and how ex­ag­ger­ated I be­haved, the lo­cal peo­ple just shook their heads. My best friend who has been to Chi­ang Mai told me that Chi­nese was more pop­u­lar than English here. There­fore, we spoke Chi­nese as we did at home. Be­tween speak­ing Chi­nese and us­ing Ali­pay, we prac­ti­cally felt like we were trav­el­ing in China.

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