Sunday, July 22, 2007
Illiterate in China
One of the first things a person understands immediately when moving to China is the uncomfortable world of a person who is illiterate.
All the signs are in Chinese or in Pinyin-either way you cannot read them. Supermarkets are greatly appreciated because they have everything you need in one place. It is not a time saver in the traditional sense, but you sure can waste a lot of time trying to bargain shop in the small shops if you don't know what anyone is selling just by reading their sign.
Well，I find that the same thing is true in Korea. You are an instant illiterate. Even once you learn to read the Korean words (not that difficult at all) you still don't know what any of it means. The added bonus in Korea is sometimes they mix in Chinese characters into the titles of things. I find that I am back at square one. I can barely ask how much something costs. Whether they stock that item or if it comes in black are completely out of the question.
I find myself asking in vain whether a shop keeper can speak Chinese. You won't be surprised to find that they do not. You will also find that only serves to confuse them more. Sadly, they also do not speak English except for an occasional number or word.
It is time to crack open the books again. It did not seem as hard to communicate with people in China as it has seemed in Korea. It is hard to tell just looking back. I am going to have to find a Korean friend whose English is terrible.