Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mei Wenti!

Those of us who have worked in China are used to the familiar response to just about any request -- "mei wenti (no problem)." Most often, it really means the problem is huge, but I'm not telling you about it. It's important to be aware of different common sayings, especially when the language and cultural barrier is wide. My western co-workers and I used to say that 'yes,' 'uh huh,' and 'ok' from our Chinese suppliers meant only "I hear you" not "I understand and agree."

While reading Mechanical Engineering this month I came across an article by Mia Doucet called "What Part of Yes Don't you Understand?" Mia is right on the mark, and nicely describes how "yes" is most often used as a neutral constant, and almost never signifies agreement. I've added Mia's website to my "links" list. From it, you can access many of her articles, though at this time, the article I described is not yet in the list. I expect it will be shortly, as another article published in Mechanical Engineering earlier this year is available.

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