Thursday, October 27, 2005

This is a true story

This happened many years ago, before it would have been possible to relate it in a Weblog, so that's my justification for dusting it off and repeating it now.

My employer at that time sold its products worldwide, including to the Peoples Republic of China. We had service centers all around the world to support our products, but the PRC in particular wanted to be able to support themselves, so they sent teams of their engineers over here to be trained.

Now, I don't know what criteria the Chinese government used to select engineers for this purpose. I would guess that academic credentials played a part, and maybe their experience or seniority, and perhaps whether or not they had slept with the Commissar's daughter, but I do know one criterion that was not considered, and that is their command of English. You would think that when selecting engineers to travel to a foreign country to be intensively educated in supporting enormously complicated products used in life-and-death applications, a basic requirement would be fluency in the language in which the education will be conducted. But no, to a man, these Chinese engineers spoke terrible English.

One day, a Production Manager (a bigwig dude) was walking past the elevator when he noticed that a sheet of paper with the words "Out of Order" had been taped over the call button. A Chinese gentleman was pushing the call button repeatedly, through the hanging paper, and then listening for the elevator. The Production Manager stopped and pointed to the paper. He spoke slowly, following the words with his finger:

"Out. Of. Order."

The Chinese man looked puzzled. The Production Manager repeated himself, drawing the words out (why is it that we think that distorting the pronunciation of a word will make it more understandable to foreigners?):

"Ooouut ooof oooordeer."

The Chinese man still looked puzzled.

"Noooo wooork," said the Production Manager.

The Chinese man still looked puzzled.

"Noooo wooork," said the Production Manager, waving his arms and hands back and forth in front of his chest, palms down. "Broooken."

To which the puzzled Chinese man finally said,

"Yeah. I know. I'm here to fix it."


BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!! omg, i almost spewed my water. that's hysterical.

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