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A question of nuance for my American friends. Login/Join
 
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Picture of BobHale
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I have been asked by a Chinese friend about how to reply to the question "Are you ready?"
Specifically she asked if the right way would be "No I am not" or "No I'm not". To my British ear these both sound a little impolite. In fact the longer form sounds quite hostile as if it means "No I am not and stop asking me!"
I suggested that for British English "No, not yet.", "Almost ready" or "Not quite yet" would be considered more polite. I added the caveat that I don't know how any of these replies might be perceived in America and she asked if I could find out. Over to you guys. I realise that a lot would depend on intonation but just based on the words how would these variations be seen over there and would there be any other polite way to say "no"?

This message has been edited. Last edited by: BobHale,


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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I agree with your analysis, Bob.
 
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I think so too, Bob. "Not yet" or "Almost" or "Just give me another two minutes." The respondent needs to acknowledge that they're keeping the questioner waiting.

Wouldn't that be the same in China?
 
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Remember they are learners and one of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language is getting all these subtle nuances right. After all the words "No I am not" seem simple enough - a straightforward answer to a straightforward question but on analysis they are anything but straightforward.

I imagine - no, I know - that similar situations exist in Chinese but the only one that I can tell you about is the phrase "ni hao ma" which is a general greeting which is (or so we are told) "how are you" and is literally "are you good" but which, I have recently learned, marks you out as an uneducated foreigner because it's a phrase that is too simple and that no Chinese person would ever use.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Big Grin Ha! Perfect illustration, Bob! Reminds me of a brief time assigned to a Taiwan project in the '70's. Even our shortest FAX communications had to pass muster with project mgt before transmission. I remember, e.g., if you wanted to convey apologies for a minor screw-up there was some contorted phraseology-- because, something like, your mistake reflected badly on your client's oversight performance [?} Everyone had to look good.

Of course I knew what you meant, as a retired for-lang teacher. Most of my time in was with little kids, so nuances would have been premature. In your example, I would have just been teaching how to answer in the negative; 'almost' still on the horizon.
 
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Do Mandarin and Cantonese speakers use the same greeting?

A bit off subject, but I'm reminded of the French greeting, "Ça va?" and the reply, "Ça va." Inflection on "va" being the only difference.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff:
Do Mandarin and Cantonese speakers use the same greeting?



I have asked my friend who posed the original question. Although it's written the same way Mandarin is pronounced something like "knee how ma" while Cantonese is pronounced something like "Lay who a". She also gave me a bit more information. She said that Chinese would use ni hao ma in circumstances such as meeting by chance an ex that you broke up with a long time ago and are a little cool about running into again.

See what I mean about nuance?


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Wow - that is a nuance!

I agree about the "No I am not." With the "No I'm not," I do think the tone of your voice could soften it a bit.
 
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