The other day as I was walking into the train station to get to Uni, I saw a young Asian girl standing near the ticket machine looking around for help. (Young as in twenty-something.) I approached her and without asking whether I could understand Vietnamese, she started firing questions at me in the language. Now it was interesting what happened next: I spoke back to her slowly, in easy English, pretending I didn’t understand Vietnamese. She didn’t have much struggle explaining what she needed help with though. And after a mere minute we got her a ticket to where she needed to go.
As I walked to my platform, I was pondering these possible implications:
a/ that I’m a good educator, one who’s strict but helpful and motivational. I wasn’t harsh on the girl, but instead, gently made her practise a language that will help her with life (or short stay) here in Australia. If it was an older person, say my parents’ age, I knew I’d reply in Vietnamese straight away. It’s much harder to learn a new language at that age and I’d have more sympathy if they can’t or don’t want to speak English. But this young girl was more than capable. So it was either an underlying laziness, or a strong habit, both of which she needed to shake off.
b/ that I’m a cow, who also has too much time to waste. Why not just talk to her in Vietnamese and get it over and done with in 10 seconds? Was I trying to show off? (No, because I had to use the most simple words, and it wasn’t like she’d be impressed if I could read Shakespears, which I can’t, by the way. So no, no showy-offy, moi.) Was I trying to (secretly) make a point, that “hey, I got here when I was seventeen, and this was pre-mobile-phone time, and never had any chance to meet a Vietnamese on the street to ask for help, so no, you’re going to have to try and speak English to me this time”? To which the answer is yes, in a way that was my thinking. Maybe I’m too strict, and just a tad arrogant?
Anyhoo, just a tale to tell. You all know I like to over-analyse things like that. Plus it was either musing such useless stuff for the 15-minute train ride, or listening to two teenage girls going “gosh i sooo, like, hate Kyle Sandilands, and, you know, like, he’s sooo awful, and gosh, if they’re not gonna sack him, like, right now, i’m sooo gonna, like, boycott that station.” So there you have it, this blog entry.