Right Movie, Wrong Language

Living life in your third language is always an adventure. When I was studying in Germany I first became acquainted with what it is like to navigate life in a language that isn’t your first, but my German is far better than my Chinese, and so I was able to navigate more readily. Chinese, however, is a whole other animal. Because of the character based script, its difficult to read because even if you can speak, if you can’t recognize the characters you have no way to figure out what they mean.

This past Sunday, my friend Tamsyn and I traipsed out to our favorite movie theater to see then new live action Jungle Book movie. Before arriving at the theater we used the all in Chinese app to purchase our tickets, as it is 70% cheaper than buying them directly at the movie theater. We arrived for our movie on time, hunkered down in our seats with our snacks and 3-D glasses, and as the opening scene erupted onto the screen our hearts sunk as the gravelly voice of a Chinese man boomed through the theater.


We had accidentally bought tickets to the Chinese version of the movie rather than the English version. We stared at the screen blankly for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do, before standing up and awkwardly shuffling out of the theater. We had to buy a new set of tickets to the next showing, which was in English, and ended up paying twice. After almost two years in this country, this kind of thing has become routine, and you just learn to laugh it off.

Because of the language barrier, even the simplest things, such as buying movie tickets, are much more difficult than they should be. For me, however, its these every day challenges that make life exciting. The longer I stay in China, the more I learn to navigate the language barrier and cultural differences, and with each new thing I learn to accomplish, the more triumphant I feel. Every day life is a challenge, and I aim to embrace it.


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