Friday, October 30, 2015

The International Language

In Better Off Dead, Ricky's mom says her son speaks "the international language" with the French foreign exchange student, which she specifies is the language of love. Teaching in my school's "international" department leads me to believe that the true "international language" is Mandarin Chinese. Because that's all anyone ever uses around here.

At my first orientation I was told we would have special stamps to award students who speak English in the corridors between classes. I've never had to use such a stamp. A co-worker of mine is going slowly insane as he fights a losing battle on WeChat with our IT department to get the computers' operating systems' language settings to remain English. My top classroom rule is "只有英文," which means "English only" (expressed in Chinese for irony). It is continually ignored.

Last week we went on a field trip. Before releasing us into the museum, they made an announcement. "十点五十," I heard. I thought, "That means '10:50,' but surely if they were changing the departure time from 11:30 to 10:50, they would follow that announcement in English." They were changing the departure time, but they did not make an English announcement. I thought maybe it was because the woman with the megaphone spoke no English, so later in the day when I needed her help finding my bus, I held up the Chinese hand-signal for "Six" (which we recognize as "hang loose"). She said, "Bus Six is that way; walk about 30 meters."

Yesterday my family accompanied me to the department's Halloween party. I was certain that it was a national department event because every announcement was made in Chinese, as was the handout showing where different activities were occurring. My wife assured me that the e-mail announcement said it was for the international department only. The people running the event gave one of the handouts to my kids.

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