Lost in Translation

I was so proud of myself.  My Chinese has gotten passable enough that I can use Chinese language to tell the joke about the three Japanese and the three Chinese in the train.  (It is told here http://xanskinner.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!F92952EA9124A41B!2053.entry .)  I told the joke at dinner the other night, but it was a bit rough.  Things like, I didn’t know the word for "train conductor."  So, I ran it by a friend, Chandler, who is a Chinese teacher. 
He coached me a bit, and I added the word "maipiaoren" (train conductor) to my vocabulary.  I was overjoyed when he told me that he understood the joke and it was funny enough that he would tell it to the friend he was meeting at lunch that day.  (Or, was it funny that the American was trying to learn the joke.) 
Anyway, I was thrilled to learn that I could finally tell a joke in Chinese that Chinese people would think was funny!  So, yesterday, I decided to tell the joke to Song Ying.  Since she doesn’t speak English, I lacked the safety net of being able to fall back into my native language.    
Song Ying understood what I was saying.  But her response?  Not quite what I was expecting!   
"The Chinese were very bad people!  They must not have been from Guangzhou!  They must have been from the countryside." 
Even when I explained to her that I was kidding, and that they weren’t real people, she didn’t seem to think the situation was funny. 
I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cross Cultural Issues

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s