So, I've been going to Chinese classes for a couple of weeks now and little by little I'm gaining the confidence to try to speak Chinese in my daily life.
You would think it would be easy for me to practice my Chinese, since I'm living in Taiwan and all, but most of the people I come into regular contact with speak more English than I speak Chinese, so it often just makes sense for me to speak in English. This is also in addition to the fact that my pronunciation is soooooooo lousy most people can't understand me when I do decide to speak Chinese. This morning, however, I was feeling particularly ambitious:
Nick and I were at the breakfast place that we patronize about 3-4 times a week. The owner doesn't speak any English, but we found something we like on the menu and order the same thing every morning: a ham sandwich (on delicious french-style bread, toasted) with a hard boiled egg, some jello, and a coffee.
Nick typically cuts his hard-boiled egg in half and puts it on his sandwich and many mornings I think about how much better the sandwich would be if it had a fried egg in it. So today, I thought I'd ask him to fry the egg and put it on the sandwich.... let's just it wasn't as easy as I had hoped.
Earlier in the morning, my Chinese teacher gave me a vocabulary list of different food items. With this list, I now knew how to say fried. I already knew how to say egg and sandwich, so I figured I was armed and ready.
So I walked up to the counter, ordered my regular breakfast and said, "women yao zhege ji dian chao on zhege san ming che" which I thought meant "we want the egg fried on the sandwich."
He didn't quite understand me, so I kept repeating ji dian, ji dian.... and after much confusion he finally he picked up an egg and pointed to it, conveying the message "is this what you mean?" We agreed that yes, I am trying to discuss the egg, and so he clarified the pronunciation for me "ji dan" he said.
And then it clicked... I had been saying ji dian (幾點) which means "what time is it?" and not ji dan (雞蛋) which means egg.
So I had basically said "we want the what time is it fried on the sandwich" and that is BEST case scenario - if I managed to say all of the other words in the sentence correctly....
Thankfully, through some basic hand gestures, he did finally understand what I wanted and - I must say - the sandwich was delicious. It was a small victory for Nick and I but; unfortunately, it was in no way thanks to my mastery of the Chinese language. I guess I'll just have to keep practicing!