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cedarjet
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How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 5:36 am

In Europe most people can speak English which has emerged as the communal language. Scandinavians and Dutch mostly speak it like natives, and Germans aren't far behind. Likewise Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Whereas in Asia, I find there isn't much English spoken. Japan is OK for English signage but virtually no-one speaks the language, you really are on your own. China is similar, maybe Beijing and Shanghai are slightly ahead of Tokyo but not by much. South Korea is OK and I suppose Thailand too. But Thais can speak all the English they want, but if their Japanese guests don't speak it, it's worthless.

However, 747s and 777s connect the cities of Asia hourly and they're full of locals. So Japanese businessmen in China, South Korea or on holiday in Thailand, likewise vacationing Chinese in Thailand, or any other combination you can name -- how do they communicate? It can't be English, but how many Japanese speak Chinese, how many Chinese speak Thai? Surely, none!

How do they do it?
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LAX772LR
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:17 am

Obviously, if you need to be in (or interact with) a country where you don't speak the language, you're going to do at least one of three things:

1) bring/hire someone who does
2) learn the language, ahead of time or as you go
3) fumble around as best you can

....or some combo of the above.

I've been to plenty of places where Spanish, English, (limited) French, and (limited) Chinese aren't much help: just knowing how to say "yes/no," "thank you," and "bathroom," combined with a little patience and a knack for intuitively-understood sign language, can get you as far as you want to go, nearly every time.

*******************************************
That said, it's not nearly as difficult for English-speakers to get around the major east Asian cities as you seem to be depicting.

[Edited 2015-04-19 00:19:51]
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PHX787
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:56 am

White guy in Asia here   

Basically, it's kinda like this:

The Taiwanese are usually proficient in 1) Mandarin and 2) either Korean or Japanese (or both, mostly Japanese). They also speak English, but the vast majority of the Japanese cannot speak a lick of english.

The Koreans typically have a really good grasp on English. Some speak Japanese.

The Japanese who have an interest in a foreign country learn that language. Many Japanese can speak Korean (It's close to their lexicon and grammar structure) and a few can speak Mandarin. If they're able to, they use English; it seems English is used to trans-national business deals with Korea and Taiwan.

China....well, I can only speak for what I see in Japan, and they usually come here and demand the Japanese speak Chinese to them......most come here with someone who speaks Japanese to attempt to interpret...but when the Japanese don't speak Chinese back to them (remember this is when they're in Japan) they get all bent out of shape. Legit saw a fight once on the train between a Chinese tourist and a simple Japanese local because the Chinese tourist was not sure how to get to Shinagawa....he had a translator with him but the Japanese local's response to the translator, in Japanese, caused that CHinese tourist to go haywire and start screaming. That's when I got off the train. But that's one example; there's quite a few more of these examples I see, nearly daily.
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AR385
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:10 am

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 1):
2) learn the language, ahead of time or as you go

That is just not going to be practical. Sometimes you are sent to a country with no notice where the language is totally unknown to you.

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 1):
3) fumble around as best you can

This. At least learn a few words. Just so people understand you are making an effort, bring a phrase dictionary and be patient. When people in another country realize you are trying, they will be very accomodating and helpful.
 
cedarjet
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:45 am

To clarify — I'm not asking about westerners or me visiting, we're from another continent so a language and cultural barrier is to be expected. What I'm asking about — PHX787 gets it — is how they interact as neighbours. Citizens of Europe have no trouble interacting because they all speak English. My Koreanair jumbo yesterday from Narita to Incheon was packed, and the hourly flights with similar numbers onboard every day are what made me wonder: how do these people manage to communicate?
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:03 am

Quoting AR385 (Reply 3):
That is just not going to be practical. Sometimes you are sent to a country with no notice where the language is totally unknown to you.

You're only thinking within the span of a quick trip though.

Notice I didn't put a time frame on any of these. Spend several weeks/months/years in a place, as sometimes business or education requires, and you're guaranteed to pick up enough of the regional language and/or culture to ease getting around. That's more what this option was addressing.
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AR385
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 11:25 am

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 5):

You're only thinking within the span of a quick trip though.

Right. I assumed that is what it was. Sure, if you are going to be posted there for a while, then your only option is to learn the language. It will open many doors to you and will ingratiate you with the locals. Now, you don´t have to be able to write commercial correspondence with perfect grammar. As long as you can speak reasonably well the language, as in to hold a conversation, even by asking people to repeat themselves once in a while, then that is the goal.

When they sent me to Brazil, I was supposed to stay there for 1 month. Then another month and then another month. So I decided to learn Portuguese. Sure, it´s nothing like learning an Asian language, but that´s what you need to do.
 
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Aesma
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 1:34 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 4):
Citizens of Europe have no trouble interacting because they all speak English.

That's far from true, French people for example are notoriously bad at English, only the younger generation is somewhat better. None of my colleagues can put two English words together without an error, and only one is able to decipher it a bit. Still a couple of them have traveled around the world.

Our parents and grandparents were (for some) already traveling around Europe with no English skill at all, so they had the exact same problem you're talking about for Asia. If a French is going to Spain, Italy or Germany, he will not learn English, but rather some bits of Spanish, Italian or German, and bring a bilingual dictionary. As a kid/teen I would always have such a dictionary on hand when traveling abroad. In a way learning English made me lazy, I guess.
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 1:50 pm

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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:24 pm

Very anecdotal, but when I was in the Philippines and Thailand I saw a lot of Mandarin and places where you could learn Mandarin. I figured China is a regional power and many learned Mandarin, could be wrong.

Don't forget, many Asian languages use (or used) Chinese characters for their script. There are differences, and if you spoke it out to each other, no one would be able to understand each other since it's completely different phonetically. My Chinese friend could read a lot in Japan, enough to get the basic jist of what most signs were saying. He could not read the hiragana (and even if he could sound it out, he still wouldn't be able to understand it) but when he saw a sign that said "blah blah sale blah chicken" he had an idea that they had a sale on chicken just by reading the kanji.
 
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:22 pm

One could also ask this question of people in India. It's one country but there are so many different languages with different writing styles. Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati....
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:24 pm

Quoting Jagflyer (Reply 10):
One could also ask this question of people in India. It's one country but there are so many different languages with different writing styles. Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati....

That's easy to answer. Most Indians know either Hindi or English in addition to their native language. Usually one can get by with either option (especially among business people who usually speak both). It's only the poorest and rural ones that can only speak the local language but it's usually not a problem for them since (unfortunately) they also don't travel outside of their confines and certainly not outside their home state.
 
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:34 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 2):
The Koreans typically have a really good grasp on English

That's interesting. English schools are a big business here and I know a Brazilian guy who attends one of them. I've asked him before about how the different nationalities get on, and he said the Koreans seemed to find learning English the most difficult. He said they are terrified of making mistakes, and when they do they get very embarrassed and see it as shameful. That, of course, doesn't negate your point, maybe that's why they have a good grasp of the language, but they really need to be a little less uptight about learning it.

Quoting AR385 (Reply 3):
This. At least learn a few words. Just so people understand you are making an effort, bring a phrase dictionary and be patient. When people in another country realize you are trying, they will be very accomodating and helpful.

  

Apart from being respectful, it's also a common courtesy.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
That's far from true, French people for example are notoriously bad at English, only the younger generation is somewhat better.

I have to disagree with you here. My last two trips to France were amazing: it wasn't just the young people who were speaking to us in English, but some of the older ones as well. Of course I'd always have a stab at speaking a few words in French, and people would immediately reply in English. I think it's time to bury the old stereotypes!

I haven't been to Paris for a few years, and Parisians had a reputation for not speaking English (though I have to say, I never found it that bad), so it could be slightly different there.
 
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LAX772LR
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:56 pm

Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
French people for example are notoriously bad at English

In the rurals perhaps, but definitely not the major cities.

I've brought friends/family all over France for decades, who don't speak a word of it, and they've never had trouble interacting with people of all ages.
I myself, suspect a more prosaic motive... ~Thranduil
 
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:24 pm

Quoting mdsh00 (Reply 11):
That's easy to answer. Most Indians know either Hindi or English in addition to their native language. Usually one can get by with either option (especially among business people who usually speak both). It's only the poorest and rural ones that can only speak the local language but it's usually not a problem for them since (unfortunately) they also don't travel outside of their confines and certainly not outside their home state.

  

Many Indian people in cities - and probably those who are better off - are multi-lingual. My grandmother could speak Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, English, some Malayalam, and probably one more that I'm forgetting.

And given that she could speak Hindi, she probably also knew some Urdu.

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 14):

I've brought friends/family all over France for decades, who don't speak a word of it, and they've never had trouble interacting with people of all ages.

Yep. Using my bad French in France, the response was usually in English.
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:25 pm

Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 9):
Very anecdotal, but when I was in the Philippines and Thailand I saw a lot of Mandarin and places where you could learn Mandarin. I figured China is a regional power and many learned Mandarin, could be wrong.

It must be pointed out that the Chinese had been interacting with and even settling in the islands before Westerners 'discovered' the Philippines. The phrase "scratch a Filipino and you'd find a Chinese beneath" has a bit of logic in it... mostly Amoy, Fookien and Cantonese. Though latterly with increasing Mandarin, thanks to the imperative to learn the 'Royal Tongue' (mostly for business and politics) and the wonders of the web.

However, foreigners might be surprised to know that English (or what passes for it) often serves as the lingua franca now in Asia... in the fading out of fashion of the colonizers' languages and the absence of a widely spoken, shared dialect.   
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:47 pm

Quoting DeltaMD90 (Reply 9):
My Chinese friend could read a lot in Japan, enough to get the basic jist of what most signs were saying.

Being able to read signs is very helpful. I had a hard time in Israel since I couldn't make any sense out of Hebrew road signs.
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Rara
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Sun Apr 19, 2015 10:00 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 2):
China....well, I can only speak for what I see in Japan, and they usually come here and demand the Japanese speak Chinese to them......most come here with someone who speaks Japanese to attempt to interpret...but when the Japanese don't speak Chinese back to them (remember this is when they're in Japan) they get all bent out of shape. Legit saw a fight once on the train between a Chinese tourist and a simple Japanese local because the Chinese tourist was not sure how to get to Shinagawa....he had a translator with him but the Japanese local's response to the translator, in Japanese, caused that CHinese tourist to go haywire and start screaming. That's when I got off the train. But that's one example; there's quite a few more of these examples I see, nearly daily.

Nonsense. I don't know what you see, but you likely misinterpret what you see and hear. Chinese people don't expect anyone to speak Chinese to them, and certainly not outside China (and even more certainly not in Japan).

Or possibly you go by something Japanese people told you. Here's a good idea, don't believe anything the Chinese tell you about Japan, and don't believe anything the Japanese tell you about China.
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YokoTsuno
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:22 am

Quoting Rara (Reply 18):
Nonsense. I don't know what you see, but you likely misinterpret what you see and hear. Chinese people don't expect anyone to speak Chinese to them, and certainly not outside China (and even more certainly not in Japan).

Or possibly you go by something Japanese people told you. Here's a good idea, don't believe anything the Chinese tell you about Japan, and don't believe anything the Japanese tell you about China.

Correct.

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
Scandinavians and Dutch mostly speak it like natives, and Germans aren't far behind.

If that would be true, I wouldn't have problems there. Many Europeans especially older and/or less educated, small towns feel highly uncomfortable with English. You probably come to such conclusion because you mostly deal with young urban, probably highly trained people, which isn't representative. Situation in the North, small EU countries (Denmark, Switzerland, Benelux) is the best, South (France, Italy) is the most difficult.

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 4):
My Koreanair jumbo yesterday from Narita to Incheon was packed, and the hourly flights with similar numbers onboard every day are what made me wonder: how do these people manage to communicate?

We communicate in the same way Europeans do, use whatever works, including sign language if everything else fails  . English in Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, HK and better educated in general. Mandarin among ethnic Chinese (Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia), Bahasa among ethnic Malays (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore). For business meetings in North Asia (Korea, Japan) there's typically one English-speaking person in the meeting who does the translation. Not always an easy thing as details get lost in translation and participation is rudimentary. Patience, repeats, and email confirmations are key here. Many companies include someone fluent in that language whenever possible, although I have experienced meetings with a total lack of communication that could just as well not have taken place.

Quoting Devilfish (Reply 16):
However, foreigners might be surprised to know that English (or what passes for it) often serves as the lingua franca now in Asia... in the fading out of fashion of the colonizers' languages and the absence of a widely spoken, shared

Correct, in spite of the colonial ruling sentiment the language is foreign to all of us and seen as sort of neutral.
 
PHX787
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:04 am

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 12):
That, of course, doesn't negate your point, maybe that's why they have a good grasp of the language, but they really need to be a little less uptight about learning it.

Well That's everywhere and I'm putting all of that in a relative sense.
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mad99
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:04 am

Quoting Revelation (Reply 16):
Being able to read signs is very helpful. I had a hard time in Israel since I couldn't make any sense out of Hebrew road signs.

from what i remember all sighs are i Hebrew, English ad Arabic?
 
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seb146
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:23 am

Part of it is that public schools there teach more than one language because of the global economy. American schools barely teach English. In the American West, we learn Spanish from the taco trucks. I know very basic French from spending a lot of time in YVR. I could probably navigate Paris. But, I had to take the initiative. I lost the "because 'Murica!" attitude.
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Kiwirob
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:38 am

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
Scandinavians and Dutch mostly speak it like natives, and Germans aren't far behind. Likewise Spain, Portugal and Italy.

No they don't, there are plenty of Scandinavians who do not speak English like natives, I've got neighbours and some of my wifes relatives who can't speak any English at all. When was the last time you were in Germany? The Germans are right up there with the French and Italians when it comes to their lack of English.

The Dutch are pretty good, I'll give you that.

It comes down to TV, countries that dub aren't very good, countries that don't dub are significantly better.
 
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:48 am

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 13):
Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
French people for example are notoriously bad at English

In the rurals perhaps, but definitely not the major cities.

I've brought friends/family all over France for decades, who don't speak a word of it, and they've never had trouble interacting with people of all ages.

Even in the major cities, most Frenchies are either very bad at or simply seem unwilling to converse in English, even if they speak it relatively well. Some of the tradespeople are willing to speak in English to their tourist customers, and that is what helps most visitors get by.
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mad99
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:16 am

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
Spain

i think you'll find Spain does not have a lot of English speakers, maybe on the coast.
 
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Kiwirob
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:59 am

Quoting mad99 (Reply 24):
maybe on the coast

Should do there's a couple of million UK expats living on the coast.
 
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MillwallSean
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:10 am

In SE Asia most different nationalities, tend to speak English with each other, if they interact. Obviously this is easy for lets say the Filippinos or the Singaporeans but very hard for the Vietnamese or Thai (outside the tourist areas).
In business, English is the lingua franca, even though the old Chinese businessmen who are the decision-makers don't speak a word of English prices are universal and details can be arranged by younger staff.

Apart from that, as several posters have mentioned before, residing for a year or more in a country without learning the basic language is just plain wrong. if you move abroad show some basic respect, some appreciation of the country that has accepted you, learn the language and adapt. The ethnocentrism shown by expats (most arent expats but instead migrants or living on a sick benefit etc) in SE Asia is painful.
Funny part is the same people who move abroad and don't even bother to learn the local language are usually the ones who whine about immigrants in their home countries...
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danvs
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:44 pm

Quoting mad99 (Reply 24):
...Spain does not have a lot of English speakers, maybe on the coast.
Quoting KiwiRob (Reply 25):
Should do there's a couple of million UK expats living on the coast.

May be the expats should learn Spanish instead?
 
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mad99
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:41 am

Quoting danvs (Reply 27):
May be the expats should learn Spanish instead?

I don't think they have to. From my experience on the coast, they live in enclaves that speak English and the locals (Spanish) learn enough English to do business with them.
 
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seb146
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:10 am

Quoting MillwallSean (Reply 26):
In SE Asia most different nationalities, tend to speak English with each other, if they interact.

As an American, if I ever went to SE Asia, I would learn way more French than I know now! I know the Dutch colonized parts of SE Asia but many people also speak French, IIRC.
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:56 am

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
Scandinavians and Dutch mostly speak it like natives, and Germans aren't far behind

Yeah, if you like the German accent  

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bjorn14
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 8:10 am

I speak fluent Norwegian (near native according to relatives) and I cannot count how many times I have been answered in English. Now you get up in the valleys and then its a whole different story. Not even people from the cities can understand them.
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FlyboyOz
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 8:53 am

I think Singaporeans can speak Hokkien - different Chinese dialect, mixed Cantonese/Mandarin (I mean when they pronounce in both Cantonese and Mandarin together) and English.

I know most Koreans can speak Chinese and even can write Chinese as well. They learnt it at school.

I am not sure about Japanese but they still can write Chinese too. Both Chinese and Japanese characters look very similar and some of them have same meanings. However, they speak in different way.
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Kiwirob
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:07 am

Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 31):
Now you get up in the valleys and then its a whole different story. Not even people from the cities can understand them.

Depends on which valley, I've had this conversation with my wife, as a teenager she worked in a call center, like many Norwegians she speaks several dialects and can pretty much understand anyone from anywhere in Norway.

Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 31):
I speak fluent Norwegian (near native according to relatives) and I cannot count how many times I have been answered in English.

If your Norwegian is that good I'd be surprised if people answered you in English, my Norsk is crap, but when I use it 90% of the time I get a reply in Norwegian.
 
N1120A
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:13 am

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
Japan is OK for English signage but virtually no-one speaks the language, you really are on your own.

That's not really true. Just about all Japanese people under the age of 60 speak English proficiently, but they are too bashful and afraid of making mistakes.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
French people for example are notoriously bad at English

Zat eesn't reely trkhue. The French don't like speaking English, but just about anyone under 80 speaks it just fine.

Quoting Jagflyer (Reply 10):
One could also ask this question of people in India. It's one country but there are so many different languages with different writing styles. Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati....

English and/or Hindi.

Quoting mad99 (Reply 24):
i think you'll find Spain does not have a lot of English speakers, maybe on the coast.

My Spanish isn't great, and I had no issue speaking mostly English in Madrid.
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bjorn14
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:20 am

Quoting KiwiRob (Reply 33):

My wife was born in Sogn og Fjordane and when she goes back to visit its like going to another country.
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gabrielchew
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:00 pm

I think asking "how do Asians commicte without English" is rather short sighted, and a bit demeaning. I've been to many places where local people speak no English. The fact that I am a native English speaker is irrelevant. Options are:
- try and speak some of their language
- smile, and use sign language
- go and hide in a corner and pretend you're not there OR speak very s-l-o-w-l-y and loudly in English, hoping that they are "clever" enough to understand

It's the same story all over the world for many millions of travelling people. You find a common language. If there isn't one, then you fall back of human nature, and try and get your meaning across and efficiently as possible without being patronising/rude.

I was in Belarus last year. I speak barely any Russian, and my Airbnb host spoke very poor English. Thankfully, we both realised quite soon that we both spoke OK French, so that's how we communicated.

Also last year I was in San Blas in Panama. The local people speak Guna. Obviously English wasn't of any use, so I had to revert to speaking Spanish with some of the few people that spoke that.

I lived in China for a few years - spoken English is a lot better than it is in Japan. People would generally start to talk to me in Chinese (which I learned). For others, they'd try and speak some English (or whatever European language they knew some of, which may have been Russian or French). Then reverting to the old smile, and try and communicate.

Being Asian has nothing to do with communicating, and English isn't always the lingua franca either.

Of course if, like in your example, you're off to do business in another country, then you either have to learn the language, or get a translator. No other real options.
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Kiwirob
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:40 pm

Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 35):
My wife was born in Sogn og Fjordane and when she goes back to visit its like going to another country.

I live in Møre og Romsdal the next fylke heading North.
 
18161
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:23 pm

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 14):
And given that she could speak Hindi, she probably also knew some Urdu.

Let me tell you a secret, the two languages you mentioned are the same in the spoken form but no one will admit to it. They can use different words(Persian/Sanskrit) intentionally to make it sound different, but me a south Indian have overheard a lot of pakistanis speaking urdu and had no problems in understanding them with my knowledge of Hindi. But as a malayalee, i have more difficulty in understanding Tamil, although I can grasp 70-75% of it.
I speak English outside my home-state, I can speak Hindi if the person doesn't know English but in South I can speak only English or Malayalam hoping they might pickup words from my mother tongue. Most South Indians are not very strong with Hindi and might prefer English everywhere. Here at work I have Gujuratis and I speak only English to them.
 
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Revelation
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:02 pm

Quoting mad99 (Reply 20):
from what i remember all sighs are i Hebrew, English ad Arabic?

In looking online it appears you are correct so I must be remembering other aspects such as trying to read shop signs and restaurant menus that were not multi-lingual.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 36):
a bit demeaning
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 36):
Being Asian has nothing to do with communicating

I don't think the thread has any intent to demean or anything to do with 'being Asian', it's just about what languages various Asian communities use to communicate.
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seat64k
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 12:58 am

I spend a great deal of time both working and travelling in East and South East asia, so I can make some observations:

First, be careful of selection bias. The people we are most likely to interact with while travelling - be it in business meetings, or just the tourism and/or hospitality sectors - are there in part there because of English proficiency. They're not necessarily representitive of the population in general.

Second, understand that in much of the world, learning two or more languages from childhood is the norm. Monolingualism is the exception. Even where people from a particular country apparently speak the same language, regional dialects can be mutually unintelligible, necessitating the ability to speak more than one.

My Hong Kong colleauges (Cantonese speakers) can all speak Mandarin and English well enough to conduct business, and all of them are at least reasonably proficient in at least one more regional language (mostly Japanese, Korean but some Tagalog and Vietnamese too). My Chinese friends all seem to know a good deal of Korean, thanks to the popularity of Korean dramas. When I travel in China I meet many people (especially young people) who don't speak English but learn other languages - either related to their field of study or perhaps with the aim to study abroad. And they don't all go to English speaking countries.

Some colonial languages still linger. I've seen two older guys - one Vietnamese, one Lao, speak French to each other. Lao people can generally Thai (due to exposure to Thai TV) although it's not as good the other way around. In Thailand, I saw lots of signeage in Chinese script. There was a coffee shop across the street from the place I was staying in Bangkok. The barista (a middle-aged Thai lady) didn't speak any English but could speak a variety of Asian languages - enough to do business in anyway.

Chinese script can help too. Japanese uses a subset of (traditional) Chinese characters. It's tricky though - some characters are used for their meaning, others for the sound they represent. With that in mind, there's enough overlap that signs and menus can often be read - at least partially. Even with my very basic Mandarin, I can understand bits and pieces of Japanese menus, and the more prominent signage are often the same. Traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and anywhere outside of China where Chinese immigrants live. I've found that educated Mainland Chinese friends can generally read Traditional characters, at least the more common characters - referring to them as "long form" or "formal form" or something like that.

Quoting cedarjet (Thread starter):
In Europe most people can speak English which has emerged as the communal language.

Not true. This perception is really down to who you interact with and some random chance. Since I work in an office full of Europeans, I often get opportunities to visit their home towns, and more often than not I meet people of all ages who don't speak a lick of English.

Quoting AR385 (Reply 6):
Spend several weeks/months/years in a place, as sometimes business or education requires, and you're guaranteed to pick up enough of the regional language and/or culture to ease getting around.

That's a mistake many people make. You aren't guaranteed picking up anything if you don't make an effort to. The expat bubble is a very real problem and it's very common to meet westerners (generally native English speakers) who have been living somewhere in the East for years, sometimes decades, who can't even cope with the most rudimentary of pleasantries. In fact, the people I get to know through work almost all fail to learn anything more than "hello" "my name is..." "taxi" "toilet" and the names of their favourite drinks/dishes.

Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 35):
The French don't like speaking English

I don't think the French mind at all. They seem to mind being expected to speak English, if anything.
 
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 3:48 am

Quoting seat64k (Reply 40):

I agree more or less with your findings, except the part about Vietnam. The younger generation has completely forgotten about French. Same applies to Indonesia (Dutch). Legal professionals still study Dutch because Indonesian law is still partly based on the Dutch law at the time. Not sure if this is also practised in Vietnam.
 
vikkyvik
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:33 am

Quoting trvyyz (Reply 38):
Let me tell you a secret, the two languages you mentioned are the same in the spoken form but no one will admit to it.

Ha. I remember hearing that they were very similar (moreso than most Indian languages of common parentage), but I didn't realize they were the same.

If I remember correctly, Urdu is written in either Arabic or Hindi script; I would assume you could write Hindi in Arabic script as well, though I don't know.
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:19 pm

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 42):
Urdu is written in either Arabic or Hindi script;

Urdu is written in a script similar to persian/arabic afaik, Hindi is written in Devanagiri script used by Sanskrit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindustani_language
Hindustani , historically also known as Hindavi, Dehlvi, Urdu, and Rekhta, is the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan.[8][9] It is an Indo-Aryan language, deriving primarily from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi, and incorporates a large amount of vocabulary from Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit and Chagatai.[10][11] It is a pluricentric language, with two official forms, Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu ,[12] which are its standardised registers, and which may be called Hindi-Urdu when taken together. The colloquial languages are all but indistinguishable, and even though the official standards are nearly identical in grammar, they differ in literary conventions and in academic and technical vocabulary, with Urdu retaining stronger Persian, Turkic and Arabic influences, and Hindi relying more heavily on Sanskrit

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 42):
I would assume you could write Hindi in Arabic script as well

Colloquial Hindi from North India written in arabic would be urdu I guess, only news readers use sanskritised Hindi which the words are similar to south Indian words. The average person just uses common words, I have tried sanskitized Hindi with North Indians from UP and they had no clue what i was saying.

[Edited 2015-04-22 06:30:11]

[Edited 2015-04-22 06:42:08]
 
vikkyvik
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 3:03 pm

Quoting trvyyz (Reply 43):
Colloquial Hindi from North India written in arabic would be urdu I guess, only news readers use sanskritised Hindi which the words are similar to south Indian words. The average person just uses common words, I have tried sanskitized Hindi with North Indians from UP and they had no clue what i was saying.

Similar situation with Tamil. "Formal" Tamil is spoken quite differently from colloquial Tamil. My dad has mentioned having trouble understanding news reports in formal Tamil.
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BarfBag
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:40 pm

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 42):
Ha. I remember hearing that they were very similar (moreso than most Indian languages of common parentage), but I didn't realize they were the same.

It's a tortuous politically influenced history. Both are standardised registers of Hindustani language, which in turn is a popular dialect spoken in the Delhi area for hundreds of years. Hindi is Sanskrit-oriented Hindustani, Urdu is primarily but not exclusively, Persian oriented. They use different scripts. They used to all mean the same thing decades ago, and the word Urdu (which is etymologically based the word 'horde' for the Turkic/Mongol golden horde) is relatively new.

Going back to the original question, India has anywhere between 250-425 million people who can speak basic functional English as a second language. About 600 million speak Hindi. Add up all those who speak other major languages, and the total is about 1.5, much more than the population. That means that a large number of people have at least functional bi/tri/quadrilingual capability.

I know that every last member of my extended family is at least bilingual (native language and English) , with probably half being trilingual (native language, Hindi, English), and a few including me being quadrilingual (English, Hindi + 2 languages). Pretty much everyone gainfully employed in an urban setting in India has basic bilingual capability at least.
 
opethfan
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:18 pm

Quoting seb146 (Reply 21):
I know very basic French from spending a lot of time in YVR. I could probably navigate Paris. But, I had to take the initiative. I lost the "because 'Murica!" attitude.

That's funny, because I went through the BC school system and French was usually "the class we skip to have more time for Language Arts and Social Studies," at least until I was old enough to pick my own language classes in high school, and picked Spanish to avoid how badly I had been taught French.

I can read French pretty well thanks to cereal boxes, though.
 
seat64k
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:53 pm

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 42):
except the part about Vietnam. The younger generation has completely forgotten about French.

Agreed - I did say they were older men. The French speaking Lao I met were all older. The youngest was a guesthouse owner - in her 40s, I would guess - who spoke I-tarzan-you-jane level English - basically just enough to charge you for a room and give you the key, but little else. But she spoke reasonable French, and I overheard her speak Korean to one of the guests. Who knows what else she can speak!

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 42):
Same applies to Indonesia (Dutch). Legal professionals still study Dutch because Indonesian law is still partly based on the Dutch law at the time.

Interestingly, I met a law student in Cambodia that studies French for the same reason - their legal system having some connection to French law. It wouldn't surprise me if that happens in Laos and Vietnam too.
 
seat64k
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:08 am

Quoting seat64k (Reply 40):

In my post I misquoted users AR385 and bjorn14. In both instances the quotes were from the posts directly above theirs. It looks like I hit the quote button below the post instead of above.

Sorry guys - my bad!
 
N1120A
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RE: How Do Asians Communicate (No Shared Language)?

Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:59 am

Quoting trvyyz (Reply 43):
Urdu is written in a script similar to persian/arabic afaik

Urdu is written in Farsi script, which is modified Arabic script. Pakistanis can generally read Farsi perfectly, even if they don't know what they are reading.
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