China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

English Speaking Guides in China

I teach a class in China at Guide Schools and with Travel Services on occasions when I am working there each year. One of the things that some guides tell me is that communications with foreigners is sometimes difficult with all the accents and many who use slang words that they do not understand. It is considered to be impolite to ask foreigners to repeat something or to tell them that they do not understand them. It is a cultural requirement to give a positive answer to inquiries or questions so sometimes the communications lacks some mutual understanding. Chinese usually learn British English and by time they graduate from the University can speak about 7to 8 thousand words. Americans normally use about 12 thousand words in normal conversation and many slang words, double meanings etc. etc. And yes, we do have a very strong accent. Chinese guides must deal with British, American, Australian, Canadian and many people who speak English as a second language. Speaking slowly, using formal English and avoiding slang will help greatly with communications. I often watch the eyes of a new Chinese friend to see if they are understanding me and if I get that bewildered blank look, know I must rephrase myself until I get a positive reaction to my statement or question. Some Chinese friends speak perfect English and I sometimes catch myself falling back into my American slang but not for long. The book above is a great help when going to China. If you can not find it in book stores, I keep about 50 copies on hand at $25 each post paid. Contact me at: More Photos at

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