Why Don’t You?

Image by alba1970 from Pixabay

Today at the store, I suddenly remembered an old joke about a medical doctor freshly graduating from a medical school. He examines his first patient and doesn’t know what exactly is wrong with this patient, whose illness doesn’t conform to any of the case studies the doctor has learned in school. So the doctor tells the patient, “why don’t you go outside, walk around without your jacket for half an hour?” The patient says, “but Doctor, it is freezing outside.” The doctor says, “yes, that’s the point. You will get pneumonia and I know exactly how to cure pneumonia.”

The reason I thought about this joke is because I’ve been learning a little Spanish for a year and half now. However at the HMart grocery store today when the two cashiers talked with each other in rapid Spanish, I couldn’t understand a word. I suddenly had this urge to ask them, “why don’t you say, ‘creo que’ or ‘me gusta’ since every Spanish learning material seems to tell me that Spanish speaking people say ‘creo que’ or ‘me gusta’ in every sentence, or in every other sentence?” Or at the very least, they should throw in one or two “tiene mucho” just to cheer up the frustrated Spanish learner standing not far away from them. And it is quite frustrating when one thinks one has learned a lot about a language, only to feel completely defeated when two native speakers start to talk unscripted, totally disregarding what the non-native speaker has learned.

I think I can call this a “why don’t you” moment. And I have experienced other “why don’t you” moments before. Many years ago, I became a saleswoman to sell a product I didn’t really understand much to the Asian community in New Jersey. We had a lot of sales training. Actually we had sales training twice a week in the morning. And during the training, we were taught all kinds of sales strategies, and we practiced on questions and answers in all kinds of combinations. Our sales manuals, if piled up, can be taller than me. Equipped with all these knowledge, I thought I could discover my target prospects and answer all their questions. How wrong I was. None of the prospects I targeted fit in the kind of ideal customers described in our training manual. And worst of all, those prospects never asked the questions I had practiced before. They always had questions that I had never prepared for.

I have nothing to write about today and I guess this is the only thing that comes to my mind. There are a lot of “why don’t you” incidents. For example, a woman is surprised to find that her boyfriend doesn’t behave like what she imagines that he would, and a man is equally surprised to find that his girlfriend doesn’t behave according to stereotypes. Or no matter how many questions we help people prepare for their interview, most of the time the real interview questions are very different.


26 thoughts on “Why Don’t You?

        1. So true. And it’s no use trying to reach fluency asap since without an accumulation of listening and reading (I mean years), it is impossible to feel comfortable with it.

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  1. This definitely is a thing! It happens when you go into an exam and answer the question you’ve prepared rather than the one on the paper. It happens in writing when you have a nice word or phrase that you’ve been wanting to use for ages – so you use it even though it’s actually not quite right in the context. In foreign languages you say what you *can* say rather than what you really want to say – so you could even end up falsifying your opinions I guess. I suppose it’s related to the concept of “taking the line of least resistance”.

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    1. I know a lot of words that I don’t know how to insert into writing. LOL. Soooo true. Sometimes I am thinking of a story just for using a word. For example, I have been dying to use the word “needful”, which is a popular non-native speaker word, but I haven’t been able to find an appropriate occasion to use it. Every time i try to use it, I can feel that another word is more suitable than needful. Also probably because I know it is a word unsanctioned by native speakers and I am a little wary of using it.

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      1. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “needful” either, in my writing. I can’t help associating it with this hymn that we used to sing at school:

        Praise to the Lord, Who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
        Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
        Hast thou not seen all that is needful hath been
        Granted in what He ordaineth?

        So it has always seemed a bit archaic to me for that reason. In the context of the hymn it seems to mean “necessary” – yet I looked it up just now and it apparently also has the occasional meaning of “needy”. If you didn’t know you’d probably guess that “needy” was the main meaning.

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        1. Wow, so people in the good old days did use needful. It is somehow very popular among non-native speakers nowadays. LOL. It is quite poetic actually. Needful should be revived.

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  2. Book learning can only take you so far, it is experience that counts a lot more especially when it comes to foreign languages. Speaking of which, have you ever thought of watching Spanish TV shows or movies? Whenever I watch something in Chinese or Korean I still can keep up with my skills in both.

    BTW, my favorite Mexican movie is El Mariachi. My second favorite is the Spanish version of Dracula produced in 1931. Those are the only two Spanish movies I have watched, haha.

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    1. Book learning can really lead people astray. That’s what I wanted to express but didn’t have the opportunity to. LOL. Well… my Spanish is not good enough to watch Spanish shows or movies. I can do it, but it became too slow and too cumbersome to understand each word that I eventually give up. I think probably in another year or two, I will be able to be advanced enough to do that. I’ve never watched Dracula before and it will be interesting to watch a Spanish version of it.

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      1. I guess what I forgot to say is that even if you watch them with subtitles that it will help your listening comprehension and vocabulary.

        Also both the English and Spanish versions of the 1931 film Dracula are my favorite. I don’t know how to access them besides buying the DVDs, though.

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        1. I have to say I almost bought the book “dracula” but somehow I just didn’t at the last minute. LOL. I really should try since he seems to be a very interesting monster…

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  3. Still a very nice post despite you not knowing what to write about 😁. Makes me think about my “why don’t you” moments. I had those too when it comes to other languages. One is so proud to be able to understand what’s written, but listening and understanding people talking in their native language is quite different and frustrating 🙈😁. Happy 4th advent tomorrow😊

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    1. Thank you for your sweet encouragement. Yes, we are. So true. The real life talking is an entirely different thing. I guess you probably have met some Londoners who talked in their own special dialect. I heard about those things… I’ve met the word “advent” before, but I’ve never seen it being used here. I guess it is used in your place more often.

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