Today, I was in the bathroom at school when two young girls came in and entered the two stalls.
They’re students here; they’re Taiwanese, and, as such, their native language is (traditional) Chinese.
After a moment, I hear one say, “Rebecca, there have tissue?”
I hear Rebecca say, “Here have. There have tissue?”
“Here don’t have.”
It was a beautiful moment. Sure, not flawless in terms of grammar – but no one was making them speak English to each other at that moment, and they weren’t speaking for the benefit of any English speakers (unless, of course, the fact that I was in the room greatly influenced them, which is also a possibility – but a possibility that is just as adorable as them simply wanting to speak in English). No, they were using their second language practically – simply as a way to communicate and solve a problem!
And their mistakes make perfect sense! Chinese verbs (at least so far, in my still-rudimentary study of Chinese) don’t change depending on their subjects the way English verbs do. Have/has, for example, is always just “有,” (“yǒu”).
It reminded me of how my friend Sam and I will sometimes speak terrible, probably horrendous-sounding Chinese riddled with mistakes. Maybe we seem cute when Chinese speakers hear us.
Though we’re at a disadvantage, with our age and size….