Social Question

Serevaetse's avatar

How do I communicate with my co-workers when they all speak chinese?

Asked by Serevaetse (766points) September 13th, 2010

I work at The Great Wall (a Chinese Buffet) and all of my co-workers speak Chinese. They speak English, but not very fluently. I can get my point across to them, and they can to me, but it gets confusing and frustrating at times.
Any ideas aside from learning the Chinese language that can help me out and do my best at work?

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

First of all, I’m no expert in this. I’m just brainstorming here. It would be useful to know what is your official relationship to your co-workers? Do you do the same job?

In any case, you work at a restaurant. There must be a standard set of things you have to communicate. Sit down with your co-workers some night or morning and work out a set of hand signals for these things. Or even word signals. Perhaps best, both.

For other things that are not included in your hand signal system, you will have to try to use words. Things that happen often enough should be given a hand signal.

Anyway, that’s my idea. I have no idea if it will work. But it’s something.

Trillian's avatar

Why is learning Chinese not in an option? It would certainly speak well of you to management, and who knows what other opportunities that could lead to?

Serevaetse's avatar

@wundayatta thanks, that might help. It is a pretty new job, and I am either a server or a host- and they do the same job. Some are patient with me while others are rude and call me ‘lazy’ so yes, a hand signal would probably be best for us.
Since they speak so fast or not at all, that would be a nice help for me. Thank you (:

@Trillian well, the reason learning it isn’t an option is because I have college to go to as well as another job. That would take too much of my time and energy when I am so busy with other things. But yes, I can’t imagine all of the other opportunities I would come across if I did. (:

CyanoticWasp's avatar


AmWiser's avatar

Ní hǎo. It would do well for you to learn some basic Chinese. There are some good on line tutorial that should look into. Practicing at least 30 minutes a day would help you out immensely. Link. zàijiàn!

robmandu's avatar

You can try using Google’s automated translation utility.

However, if you do, I recommend that you include both your original text as well as the Chinese version in your message. Chances are your coworker’s mastery of English is likely better than Google’s of Chinese.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

How about putting together a list of items and phrases that commonly are needed? Once compiled, you could memorize the phrases. As for anything tangible, take an instant photo of it and post it in an employee area with both the Chinese and English word written on it. It might be beneficial to everyone that works there. Surely the owner/manager would spring for the cost.

Trillian's avatar

How ‘bout maybe just a few phrases for a start? Key communications and such? Oh, I see @Pied_Pfeffer beat me to it.
What she said. I would add that you should try to get the correct phonetic pronounciation. come in to work fifteen minutes early every day and just post a few on the board and have someone say it for you. Write down how it sounds and repeat back for verification. Keep a log and just add a couple new ones every few days.
Really, aside from learning Chinese or them learning better English, there won’t be much else. Since their English is already better than your Chinese, I suggest you try to meet them half way.

CMaz's avatar


The_Idler's avatar

Chinese is so, so difficult to pronounce. I would consider learning some useful characters.

While I was out there, I was much better off writing down characters, than trying to speak. I couldn’t tell the difference between my pronunciation and theirs, but they couldn’t even understand me (or it took 7 or 8 tries).

I think it’s because there aren’t many sinophone lǎowài, so they really struggle with the accents. Even the English students I met out there, who had been studying Chinese at university for 2 or 3 years, had to repeat themselves two or three times for each sentence…

After a few months you’ll probably be able to be understood for most words, but I don’t reckon you’d be able understand them in normal conversation.

I kept meaning to, but never got round to it, make flashcards. Have a little pocketbook, with each page as one chinese word or small phrase, with the English underneath. When you want to say “pork”, just flick to the page. Eventually you will learn the character for pork, and maybe even the pronunciation.

robmandu's avatar

@ChazMaz, lol! 我愛你很久

Trillian's avatar

@ChazMaz and @robmandu: 為什麼don’ t您在桌放置他們並且測量他們?

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