Tip in Practice
When I get in the mood to speak Mandarin, I want to speak to anyone who’s willing to listen to me. But, because so few “foreigners” speak Mandarin fluently (in comparison to the amount of native Chinese speakers who completely dominate the English language), it’s pretty hard to initially convince someone that you can go (linguistically) toe-to-toe with them in a conversation.
One way to get over that initial hurdle is to just put your language credentials out there first. Try recording a bilingual voicemail greeting in English and Chinese. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a short and simple message will do.
- English: Hello. I’m not in right now. Please leave a message after the beep.
- Chinese: 你好，我現在不在，如果有事請在“嘟”聲後留言。
What a Bilingual Voicemail Greeting Says About You
- You speak or are learning Chinese (the obvious).
- Multiple people are calling you that speak Chinese. You believe that they’d feel more comfortable having the option to leave a message in Chinese.
- You’re conversant enough to understand and return messages exclusively (or predominately) in Chinese.
Depending on what you say or how you deliver your greeting, this can also look extremely impressive to friends or co-workers. But remember, the goal isn’t necessarily to impress people. It’s to give others an open invitation to speak to you in Chinese.
Word of Caution
I don’t recommend this for low level learners. By leaving a bilingual voicemail greeting, you are basically saying – “I speak Chinese. Trust me.” And from experience, I’ve learned that once a native speaker starts to doubt your language abilities, it’s really hard to break through that wall of doubt.
Additionally, speaking on the phone in a foreign language is a lot more difficult than speaking face-to-face. In an in-person setting, you have facial expressions, body language, and other physical cues to help you understand the context. On the phone, you’ve got nothing but words and vocal inflexion.
So, build up to the voicemail greeting after you’ve practice talking on the phone for a while. And then go crazy with it. Invite all of your friends/friends to call you. Once they hear your bilingual greeting, they may feel more at ease about starting a conversation in Chinese with you.