Blogucation and Rays of Sunshine
So I have been doing a lot of homework these days, trying to educate myself on the ways of the blog. Holy moly, there is a lot to know. Slowly but surely I am learning new things which is why you may see this blog consistently changing. For instance, you may have noticed that you can now click on the icons on the right and follow this blog on facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. You should be forewarned that when I logged into my twitter account to activate this feature, I noticed that my first, last and only tweet was in 2008.
File this under notshocking.com. Anyway, there may not be a whole lotta action over there…just sayin’.
Two other things I have learned on my quest to become blogucated:
1. Your blog should have a specialized focus or purpose. Like maybe you are a rock star cook and mom – you share family friendly recipes for kitchen inept people like me. Or maybe you are a really good at applying mascara, you might video yourself giving tutorials so that mascara-applying inept people like me can attempt to elongate their lashes.
2. Blogs are a visual medium and need to have eye-catching images to keep folks interested. Basically, you need photos. Preferably professional-grade photos. Like this:
This is where the old me would have just given up.
A. I do not have any real talent/purpose/focus to share on this blog. It really is just about my life.
B. You may have noticed but I am not even close to being a professional photographer.
However, the new me says “Psh. I got this” (apparently the new me is overly confident). With this new found confidence, I sat down and thought real hard about what I had to offer and how I could visually stimulate my readers.
Five seconds later…Eureka! I got it! I am pretty amazing at taking my general incompetencies and turning them into a little rays of sunshine. I can offer a little tutorial on that for sure! The image thing is a little more challenging, but as you will soon see, I gave it the ol’ college try. And just for the record, I have yet to read that the images themselves have to be related to the content that you are writing about. So here we go…
Step One: Outline your general incompetency
I have lived in Beijing, China for almost 5 years now. I speak more Chinese now than I did 5 years ago. But before you go getting all impressed, let me explain. I speak more Chinese now only because 5 years ago, I spoke none. So this is not really an accomplishment. I have tried to learn. Ish. Which basically means that I had every intention of learning and even took some (2) lessons. However, I quickly realized that Chinese is freakin’ hard and I am a language lost-cause.
So basically, I get by on “Survival Chinese”. Here is an almost exhaustive list of the words/phrases I can say in Chinese (written in English because writing in Chinese, or pinyin, is another thing I do not happen to excel at):
See you tomorrow
Turn left/right at the stoplight
how much does that cost?
that is too expensive
Not good (this I usually use to describe my Chinese)
A little bit (again, useful when describing how much Chinese I speak)
Dog (this one I learned from Beau)
the time of day
Do you have _____?
I want ______ (this blank is usually filled in with ‘one white wine’ or lately, ‘one ice water’)
I hear you but I do not understand (my personal favorite….as this is obviously a frequently used phrase for me)
Yup…5 years and that is about it. It’s embarrassing. But don’t worry, I make up for my lack of Chinese by speaking it poorly.
Step Two: Fess up as to why this little character flaw is, in fact, a flaw (it makes you seem more approachable).
More often than not, not speaking or understanding the language is a huge barrier. You are really dependent on others for very basic needs (you can read more about that here) and you miss out on the context of just about every situation. For instance, I often think “why are those two people over there yelling at each other?” And then my Chinese friend will reply: “They aren’t yelling at each other they are just asking each other how their families are.” Me: “For realz?”
Step Three: Make a positive statement and insert your character flaw at the end.
That being said, there are some REAL perks to living in a country where you cannot speak the language.
See what i did there? This is called looking on the bright side people. Got that? The bright side. You can do it too! Just take any ol’ ordinary weakness/flaw/incompetence and spin it so much that it appears to be awesome! It is a skill, really. You will get better at it, just keep trying!
Step Four: Gather Evidence to support your argument.
So here is my evidence that being language incompetent is actually an asset.
1. You can get away with stuff by playing dumb. When you do not speak the language you can find yourself in plenty of situations where someone is trying to tell you to do something (or not do something) but you don’t understand them. They, of course, get frustrated. Your job is to just play dumb long enough that they eventually wave you away because you are not worth their time and the effort it would take to get you to understand. You just keep saying “Ting bu dong” (I hear you, but I don’t understand) over and over again. Eventually they will give up. This has definitely gotten me out of a driving ticket and other sticky situations. To be super effective, don’t just play dumb, actually be dumb! Works every time. Ha! Joke is on you…person speaking Chinese to me!
2. You can increase your productivity levels in public places due to background noise reduction. Don’t get me wrong, there is a soundtrack to China. There is a lot of background noise – music playing, people yelling talking to each other, televisions blaring etc… But the cool part is that since all this is going on in a language you do not understand; it becomes a bit like white noise. Almost like listening to a rippling brook or the hum of a fan. Okay, it is nothing like either of those two things. But it is super different. And it is less distracting. I never get drawn into others’ conversations while sitting at a restaurant. There can be people right next to me having a lengthy conversation, the T.V. can be blaring and a song can be playing on the radio and I can still focus on whatever I am doing (writing, reading, taking a nap). White noise. Actually, this is one of the things that takes a while to get used to when we go back home. I get soooooo distracted because I understand everything and I am not practiced at tuning it out.
3. You don’t have to make small talk. This has to be my favorite thing. If you are introverted or have mild social anxiety like myself than you will appreciate this little gem. Picture a world where you are not expected to chit-chat with your hairdresser, taxi driver, nail technician or bikini waxer (isn’t that the WORST?). You don’t have to ask them polite questions and they do not feel obligated to entertain you with their witty observations or stories about their children. You can just sit in silence, without awkwardness. The way God intended. It is truly the best thing ever.
4. People are easily impressed by your incompetence. Because you are SO BAD at speaking the language, native speakers treat you like you have cured cancer when you do manage to string a few phrases together. There is often applause, toothy grins and lots of ‘hen haos’ (very good) thrown around. Little attempts (even poor attempts) are often met with disproportionate excitement and enthusiasm by the locals*.
*I think this is more the case in China than say France. I hear those Parisians are pretty hard to impress. Just in case you were planning on trying out these tactics elsewhere. Disclaimer: These “perks” may not be cross-culturally generalizable.
5. If you do not understand them, there is a good chance they do not understand you**. Again, while this is often a huge bummer, there are some moments when it is pure GOLD. For instance, you are in a taxi and want to have a serious and intimate conversation with someone or share personal banking information (not sure why you would want to do this but…stay with me). You can! Just do it! Talk about anything. Make inappropriate jokes, comment on the shirt someone is wearing and be generally obnoxious….now is your chance. And if you start to feel bad or guilty just remember that they are TOTALLY doing the same thing right back at you. In fact they just finished telling their friend that you smell like cheese, so all is fair.
**Again, use with caution. You might already know this but most people in the world do speak English. Bonus for me that most people in China do not.
So there you have it folks…the bright side of being totally language incompetent. I told you! You can turn any character flaw or general inadequacy into an asset. Go ahead, give it a go! I think you will be amazed how one little inadequacy can make you actually feel lucky!