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Just the other day, I was in a bookshop and spotted a volume entitled How to Make Friends with Foreigners.Naturally, as a foreigner who has been living in China for a year, I was curious to see what kind of advice a Chinese writer was giving on this matter. 几天前,有这样一本书《怎样和老外交朋友》。作为一个在中国生活了一年的外国人,我自然很想知道一位中国作者在这方面给出了什么样的忠告。

One piece of advice really grabbed my attention and, I must say, made me feel quite annoyed.In Li’s opinion, foreigners are an"opportunity" to improve your oral English; whenever you see a foreigner, you should practice speaking English to him/her. The writer goes on to say that if the foreigner doesn’t want to answer your questions, then he/she is a rude person who you wouldn’t want to spend time with anyway.I think this counsel is not only incorrect, but also potentially damaging to relations between Chinese and foreigners in China. 有一条忠告真是吸引住了我,但我也不得不说,这条忠告让我很懊恼。按照李先生的观点,外国人是你提高英语口语水平的“机会”,只要见到外国人,你就应该上前和他们练英语。作者进一步说道,如果某个外国人不想回答你的问题,那他(她)就是一个粗鲁的人,是个你不屑与之交往的人。我认为这一忠告不仅不正确,还会给中国人和老外的关系带来潜在的危害。

Like most other laowai living in China, I know how isolated one can sometimes feel living amid a culture far removed from our own familiar ways. However, most of the time this cultural isolation is something I simply accept as part of being here. I am, after all, here to learn about the people and the language of China and if I really hated this place then I would go home! So far my time in China has been very rewarding. I have improved my Chinese language skills, learnt about one of the most fascinating, swiftly developing countries in the world today and made some very close Chinese friends. 像多数住在中国的老外一样,我知道生活在远离自己所熟悉的另一种文化当中,有时会感到多么孤独啊!但在多数情况下,我接受这种文化上的孤独,将其作为生活在这儿的一部分。说到底,我来这里是想了解中国人民和她的语言,如果我真的不喜欢这个地方,那我早就回国了。到目前为止,我在中国度过的时光非常有价值,我的中文水平提高了,了解了当今世界上最有吸引力的、发展最快的一个国家,一些中国人也成了我亲密的朋友。

Unfortunately, I have also come across many Chinese people who view me purely as an"opportunity"to improve their oral English under the guise of making friends. I have experienced people following me home from town to my college flat and then harassing me to teach them English or practice English with them. I have had complete strangers thrusting articles, manuals and speeches in my face, insisting that I help them with the English translation. I have had people asking me to assist with immigration applications to other countries. All of these people have claimed at the time that what they chiefly wanted was to make friends with me. There was even one person at the weekly English Corner that I run at college who, after plying me with non-stop questions for half an hour, became very angry when I politely asked him to give other people a chance to speak. He puffed himself up like a peacock and informed me that he was simply trying to be my friend. 但令人遗憾的是,我也撞见很多中国人,他们借口交朋友但却只把我看成练口语的“机会”,有人从城里一直跟到我的学校宿舍,缠着我教他们英语,或是陪他们练口语;还有一些陌生人把文章、手册、讲稿塞到我面前要我帮忙翻译;还有人要我帮他们写移民申请。所有这些人当时都声称主要目的就是与我交朋友。在校园我所主持的每周英语角上,甚至有一个人不间断地连问了我半个小时的问题后,在我有礼貌地请他也给别人一个机会练英语时,他竟然生起气来。他趾高气扬像只雄孔雀,告诉我他无非是想成为我的朋友。

He may well have thought he was trying to be my friend, butswheresI come from you don’t build friendships by pestering and badgering another person. Friendship for a lot of Westerners is about spending time with someone whose company you genuinely enjoy.It’s not about opportunities or personal advantage.The Chinese friends I have made while living here have been genuine friends to me; we enjoy each other’s company for its own sake.In this way, we’ve not only learnt a good deal about each other’s culture but also about each other as individuals. 他或许真的想成为我的朋友,但我来自一个不可以通过纠缠与烦扰建立友谊的国度。对于很多西方人来说,友谊是与某人共度时光,他(她)的陪伴让你由衷地感到快乐。友谊并非是“机会”或是能给自己带来什么好处。我在这儿交的中国朋友都是真诚的朋友,我们因为彼此喜欢在一起而在一起。在这种情况下,我们不仅相互了解了很多对方的文化,也加深了个人间的了解。

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t approach foreigners at all. However, I do think that it’s important to question your own motives. If you truly want to make friends with someone from a different country, who could possibly object?On the other hand, if your only motive is to "use" the foreigner as a way of improving your English, then it’s quite likely that the foreigner will be able to see through you - and will definitely not want to spend time with you. 在此,我并非建议你根本不与老外打交道。但是,我认为重要的一点是问一下自己的动机。如果你真的想与来自异国的人交朋友,谁会反对呢?但话说回来,如果你唯一的动机就是利用老外将其作为自己提高英语的一种手段,那么老外很可能看穿你——那他(她)肯定不想与你共处。

So if there’s any advice to give on making and keeping friendships with foreigners, I would say that it is this:Treat foreigners as people, not opportunities.Expect to make friendships gradually, over a period of time, not instantly. And don’t ply foreigners with lots and lots of disparate questions. At times, this approach comes across as confusing and unnatural. 因此,如果说我对与老外交朋友并保持友谊有什么忠告,我想说的就是:把外国人看成“人”,而不要看成“机会”;友谊是逐渐形成的,要经过一段时间,不要期望速成;不要没完没了地向老外提出大量的互不相关的问题,这样的接触方式有时会让老外犯晕或是觉得不自然。

Finally, I would suggest that if you really want to make friends with a foreigner, then you do so because you are genuinely interested in the person. We all know that true friendships stand the test of time. If your only reason for making friends with a foreigner is to upgrade your English, then you will probably find that you don’t have a foreign friend for long!


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