We use exclamations like ‘WOW’ or ‘Unbelievable’ when something is really extreme or surprising. Sometimes, what might require a strong reaction in one culture might seem really normal in another culture. So when we speak another language, we should be careful about using strong exclamations in case we accidentally embarrass or offend someone.
Taiwanese English #3: Exclamation
A: I’ve lived here about 10 years.
B: REALLY?!?! Amazing!
If you are surprised, it’s ok to respond with really, but pronunciation is important here. If you say it in a loud, exaggerated way, it can sound like you doubt the person. It also sounds like you are really shocked, and the thing you are responding to, might not be that unusual or shocking. Try using ‘really’ in a full sentence instead, and make sure you don’t over-emphasize it.
B: Oh really, 10 years? You must really like it here.
Here are some cultural language mistakes common in Taiwan, with explanations and corrections.
Wow, you can use chopsticks, amazing!!!
Avoid expressing strong surprise or amazement for things that some people may consider simple or ordinary, such as using chopsticks, speaking the local language, enjoying local culture etc… as it may sound unintentionally insincere.
Instead, a more appropriate way to show that you are impressed would be…“It’s great that you can use chopsticks.”
B: WOW, you speak Chinese! You’re so great!
If a foreign person speaks a little bit of Chinese, this kind of response is too strong and a bit over the top, so it doesn’t seem genuine. Instead, try something a bit more low key.
B: Oh, can you speak Chinese?