Monday, June 16, 2008

The English Lesson

I take taxis almost everyday.

And for over a year I have only come across two taxi drivers who can speak some decent words of English. It is a misnomer that all taxi drivers in Beijing can speak English.

I met the second English-speaking driver today.

He was very polite in Chinese as well and after a while he began saying many of the phrases he knew: "Thank you," "your welcome", "traffic jam", and "traffic is terrible".

He said he'd been learning English for three years, going to a school for taxi drivers where they can learn at their own pace with 45-minute lessons.

While I don't think you can learn much in 45 minutes, his pronunciation was quite good and I told him that.

He said his teacher was Canadian and was getting married soon. He was invited to their wedding celebration that will be held here. "Wedding" he said.

As part of his listening comprehension, he said they listened to recordings from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

He smiled and added, "It's important to learn another language, especially for us taxi drivers."

I agreed and added even more so for the Olympics.

While he concurred, he believes there won't be that many foreigners coming, even though Olympics officials predict 500,000 overseas visitors will take in the Games.

"For many of them China is too far away," he said.

He may be right on not many foreigners coming, but it' might not be because of distance.

The Chinese government hasn't admitted this, but people's experience of trying to get tourist visas is getting complicated.

Citing security reasons, the government is creating more hurdles for people to jump over. They have to show proof of return airfare, a certificate from the hotel they will be staying at, or if they will be staying at a Beijing residence, to have a copy of the person's residence permit papers and registration at the local police station.

But maybe that was too complicated for the taxi driver to say to me in English.

At the end of my ride, he asked me how to tell people in his cab to take all their belongings with them when they get out of the car.

"Please take all your things," I said, thinking belongings would be to hard to remember.

"Please take all your things," he repeated. "Bye bye."

1 comment:

ks said...

need more time to educate the masses a different language. same is true in other european coontries like spain.