The Random Writings of Rachel: Chicken Milk

Chicken Milk

 
 Angel was forcing me to smile next to the fish.
..............................

We were at a different grocery store than our usual one, unsuccessfully searching for chicken breasts.

Angel said, "I'm just going to ask someone. I'm going to ask if they have any ji nai."

 With that, he walked away quickly, because he knows that I like to stop him from saying ridiculous things in Mandarin to other people when I can. I immediately chased him down, but I knew I didn't have time to explain to him that he CANNOT say ji nai because that literally means "chicken breast/milk" and while I can sort of understand his reasoning of chicken + breast milk = chicken breasts, chickens are not mammals and thus don't produce breast milk and you are really going to confuse someone if you ask for "chicken milk".

So I ran ahead of him to the meat counter and breathlessly asked, "you mei you ji pai?"

Ji pai was the first thing that came to mind as a possible translation for chicken breast. Pai gu means "ribs" so I was trying go with a "chicken rib" translation, but the genius meat counter lady said, "ji xiong?" which I immediately recognized as "chicken chest", a much more reasonable term than either "chicken milk" or "chicken rib".

Yes, ji xiong was what I wanted, it seems so obvious now, but I couldn't think of it at the time. Funny, how in 4 years of college classes they don't think to teach you the proper terms for all the cuts of meat you might want to purchase.

The best part of this story is that I did successfully prevent Angel from asking anyone for chicken milk. We have two totally different methods of language learning--I'm the slow, cautious one who doesn't want to talk unless I know exactly what I'm going to say. Angel's the learner who will just throw out words even when he has no idea what they mean or what order they should go in. Angel's method is actually better than mine since he has the guts to talk even when he doesn't know how...but still..."chicken milk" is one for the record books.

What kind of language learner are you? More like me or more like Angel?

31 comments:

  1. is that a walmart? I can see the little yellow explosion thing.....

    wow, what a funny story. you should have had let him ask :P

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  2. That is so funny! I'm somewhere between your and Angel's methods; I like to be pretty sure of what I'm saying, but I'm willing to take some chances.

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  3. chicken milk--that's hilarious! stories like this always make me smile!

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  4. Haha, I lol'ed at "chicken milk." I think my approach would be like yours - not speaking unless I knew exactly what to say. But I bet Angel will learn pretty quickly with his method!!

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  5. Love this story! Plus, I'm super impressed that you guys managed to come up with multiple options for the phrase! I'd have had to revert to pointing at body parts :)

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  6. Hilarious! I'd be more cautious, like you:)

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  7. Hahaha, chicken milk! That sounds so gross! I'm definitely a slow, cautious language learner!

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  8. I learn more like you. It's kind of intimidating when speaking a different language out loud. But I try. When my husband and I have gone to different parts of Mexico, if someone is trying to communicate with us, he'll point to me to "translate". Thanks honey :)

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  9. Great story! :) Unlike Tony, I am not fully bilingual, but I can certainly say that I'm like you when it comes to learning languages (which is not a natural strong suite for me in the slightest). Slow and steady, rarely attempting to speak unless I think someone will know what I'm aiming for, whereas my husband is incredibly gifted with languages and has no problem taking the "Angel" approach - and it's paid off well for him. He picked up English remarkably quickly and now has a native level proficiency in at this point, which for all intents is about 12 years with it (he learned the uber basics in high school, but that's it - the rest he taught/picked up himself).

    ♥ Jessica

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  10. And this is why I'm scared to learn Spanish. I want to because my in-laws speak Spanish and I think it would be fun to learn their language (although almost all of them speak perfectly good English) BUT I don't like to speak a language unless I know exactly what I'm saying!

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  11. haaahah. the thought of "chicken breast milk" made me laugh out loud. i am exactly how you are when it comes to learning a language...i want it perfect and accurate before i even think to open my mouth and my husband is more of the 'wing it' type (pun intended).

    we were traveling in prague once and on the window of a restaurant they were advertising "chicken titties" which was amazing.

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  12. That is funny! I think I am more like you in the language area there!

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  13. hahaha,, very smart..I just laugh while reading..thanks for sharing!

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  14. LOL! that gave me a good laugh..
    Given the counter being so smart, I bet she'll get it even if you say ji nai.. XD

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  15. HAHAHA I am so totally an Angel. When I visited Luxembourg I had no idea they had their own language. I remember me and my 3 year old busting down the cobbled streets with our huge American stroller, and I was trying to say, "excuse me" in every language I could think of...

    "Entschuldigen sie bitte shun! Con permiso...perdoname! Excusez-moi, s'il vous plait! Excuse me please!"

    I got a couple of good laughs and thankfully, everyone was charmed by the kid in the stroller.

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  16. Chicken milk! That's hilarious! I'm a little more like you and quite cautious when in a foreign country attempting to use their native language. My parents lived in the middle east and currently live in Norway, so it's quite interesting trying to pronounce some things properly! Enjoy your weekend!

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  17. Haha I wonder what their reaction would be to hearing chicken milk...surely they wouldn't have put it together that he'd meant breast! I'm like you, I liked to be cautious and kept me from communicating when I probably could have done so.

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  18. haha Chicken milk! I love it! I have never been able to learn another language. It was just something that never "stuck". I think it's really amazing when people are able to learn multiple languages. I'm glad the person at the counter understood what you were trying to say.

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  19. I must say, this is the very first time I've heard of chicken milk. Funny story! :)

    Ashley B.
    Like No Other Fashion
    www.likenootherfashion.blogspot.com

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  20. Haha! I am so like you! I refuse to say anything unless I'm 100% sure it's correct. My husband I speak the same language but different dialects and I still refuse to speak complete sentences in fear of screwing up!
    Loved this post! I'll be sure to keep in mind to never ask for chicken milk :)

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  21. Smiling here - Oh boy ..Speaking about Lost in translations :-) Chicken milk ... This is one of the best pearls in Crosscultural Communications!

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  22. So funny. My friends tried to teach me some mandarin. Ha! Love this story :)

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  23. Hahahaha... I think you should've let him ask for the chicken milk!!! ;P

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  24. Oh my gosh!! Even something as simple as grocery is affected by language differences. I had a few incidents in Italy where hand motions got me out of some confusing times with language differences.

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  25. I'm just like you - a slow, cautious learner. I'm an anxious one and I don't like making overt mistakes - if I can prevent them beforehand, I will. I think the fact that you're both different learners makes for more interesting times though wouldn't you say? Have a great one Rachel! -Iva

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  26. Bahahaha! I love it! It's kind of unfortunate that he never got to use his creative language. ;)

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  27. This was us learning Russian! I was slow and cautious and he just jumped in and made mistakes and didn't care. And he learned so much more than I did. But people could understand me better. We all have our strengths and weakness in language learning. It's fascinating to me!!

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  28. I am definitely more like you! I lived in Jerusalem for a year and only bought chicken a couple times because it was behind the counter and I didn't know how to ask for it! Eventually I mumbled something and pointed. I feel like Angel's way may have helped me to learn faster, but I was rarely brave enough to try! However, my courage always jumped if I was with someone who knew less Hebrew than I did. I felt like I needed to just figure it out and go for it!

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