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The Meaning of Words


Use this story to illustrate that even when you are aware of differences, it is sometimes very difficult to allow for them.

The meaning of Chinese words changes with the pitch of the voice. A word spoken at a low pitch has a completely different meaning to the same word spoken at a higher pitch. I was aware of this but I was still caught out when I was teaching a class of Singaporeans.

I asked Tng a question and didn't get the response I had expected. To make matters worse the whole class burst out laughing. When I asked what the problem was, they told me that I had been saying 'Tng' with a high, instead of a low, pitch — I had been telling him to go home!



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