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Living in Yangshuo, China
I lived in Yangshou, Guangxi Province, China for over three years & regard this wonderful town as my home in China.
Just because someone in Yangshou very clearly says "hello" doesn't mean they can speak English. It's very easy to assume that they do as it's said with such confidence. Many shop workers speak enough English to show you their products, but can rarely cope with any in depth questions. However all restaurant menus have English (not Chinglish) so eating out is a pleasure. You get what you order. Many restaurant owners speak fluent English & become good friends with their foreign customers. Many drink shops do not openly have any English signs, but they have an English menu available. Of course going to KFC & McDonalds is easy with their picture mat to choose from, but many of the staff speak English.
The hospitals are used to having foreigners through their doors so it's quite easy to find a doctor who speaks English. Smaller hospitals in China are like a medical clinic where you get which ever doctor is on duty.
Several years ago an enterprising local who speaks fluent English started a 2nd hand book shop for English books though he does have some in other languages. He runs the book shop from his restaurant which also has rooms for rent. It's a haven for reading travelers, but for me it’s been a life saver. He also deals in used travel guides.
All this does makes living in Yangshuo very easy. Public signs are in English & most shops have a recognizable name. My bank, the Bank of China now have English speaking staff so no more hair pulling sessions there. The Post Office also have English speaking staff. I'm sure the percentage of English speaking workers in Yangshuo is far higher than anywhere else in China.
Many young people who cannot afford to attend the local English training Colleges get jobs in hotels, restaurants & shops so they can practice their English on customers. I have met many people who studied by themselves, spending part of their day asking any foreigner who will oblige, to help them understand something. I marvel at their dedication. But it's a ticket to a better job.
One of these people was a truly exceptional young man. One day while riding my bike on the road alongside of the Li River a young guy called out to me. I stopped & quickly realized he wanted help with his English. I told him I would stop off & help him on my way back. He was waiting for me. He asked me to help him understand some dialogue in the business/financial section of the China Daily newspaper. This was not easy, even for me.
"Why do you want to know this?” I asked him. He told me his story.
He was a university student with one more year to go till graduation. English was not his major. He came from a poor farming family & had two younger brothers who wanted to go to university. He decided he would become financially independent from his family so his brothers could attend university. He had to make money to continue his studies. Following advice from one of his professors he took a year off Uni & came to Yangshuo. 1st he got himself a job in a hotel for three months, to earn enough money to live on for the rest of the year. He had basic English knowledge, but now his focus was to become fluent. He found a cheap room which he shared with another young guy who was also studying English. He met a young girl who wanted lessons so he swapped cooked meals for English lessons.
Everyday he would choose an article from the China Daily Business section to read. At 1st it took him one week to understand it completely. He would read all morning underlining what he did not understand then in the afternoons he would go to areas foreigners could be found to ask for help. At first he felt very uncomfortable doing this, but eventually he learnt to make jokes & to even the rudest of answers he received, he could usually get them to help him. He was not easily deterred. In the evenings he would review all he had learnt that day & start again in the morning. By the time I met him he could read & understand one article everyday. He could speak with me very fluently. Why was he doing this? When he returned to his University he was going to teach English to his fellow students to pay for his tuition.
An amazing young man who will do well. Plus another person whose future has been changed by Yangshuo.
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