Tuesday, March 17, 2009

oops! I spoke Chinese today

I can tell you that my order for 2 Chinese TV dramas arrived on Sunday when I was about half way through 雍正王朝. So I just need to finish watching that drama and then I'm going to watch the new ones.

I bought the two new ones from a website which is available in 3 choices, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English. They ship from several locations in Asia and my order should have come from China but the package came from Singapore, so I don't know what that means. One of the two DVD cases is kind of damaged. The cases are made from really cheap plastic. The kind of plastic that gets brittle, not the shiny good plastic. Also they are cases that carry 4 discs with 2 on each side, one above the other. While that makes it thin, it's also tall. I don't know if that is a common case type for DVDs from China or not, but I don't like them and I'm not going to store my discs in them. They hold the discs too loosely.

Just recently, perhaps last week or maybe it was during the weekend, I don't remember which, I discovered Amazon China. The prices there are just so cheap! The only downside is that the website is only in Chinese. This might be expected, however Amazon Japan has this link 'see this page in English' that you can use to get the interface in English but of course not the product descriptions. Anyway, the Chinese-only interface of the China site is no deterrent for me! After all, I am Kanji Keith! And I also have the Firefox plug-in, Chinese Pera-kun which looks up words for me when I hover the mouse over them. But, don't worry! I'm not using it to learn any Chinese. Just to cheat when looking at the Amazon China site. I ignore the pinyin and just look at the English so I don't inadvertently learn anything. I mean, I don't want to get translations stuck in my head.

So I had no problem creating an account. I browsed through the TV dramas and put a bunch on my wishlist, or whatever it's called in Chinese. Then maybe the next day, I decided to place an order. Here's where I ran into a problem. I wanted to pay by credit card and the only option which looked like it could be credit card payment was already checked. It basically says bank card, I guess. Since it was already selected as the payment type, I just clicked the button to continue. Then to actually make the payment, you need to click a button on another page. It's different than the normal order process that I'm used to because placing the order and making the payment are separate. So I had the order placed but I didn't have the payment made.

Then I press a button to make the payment and I get taken to joyo.cn for payment processing. Well, the form there did not seem to be for credit cards. So this is where I was stuck for a couple of days. I didn't know how to get to the credit card processing form. So I asked my coworker/friend to find out how to do it. He sent me a link to the help page for paying by credit card. From there, I could see on the payment selection type that there were many option buttons for selecting type of cards. So all I needed to do was to actually click on the bank card payment area and then those option buttons become visible. Then I could select Visa or MasterCard.

So that is how I was able to set up my order so that I could go to the correct payment site to pay by credit card. So then I clicked the button to make the payment, went to the right page and filled in the card info and then the transaction failed! I had no idea why. Well, there was the actual failure message in English but it was not specific enough for me to understand what was wrong. It said something like, 'verify enrollment failure.' I tried doing the payment several more times and on different days but I kept getting the same failure message.

So today, first I called the card issuing company to see if anything was wrong with my account. That was my chance to speak Japanese. But I don't look forward to such chances to speak Japanese on the phone. The phone is the most difficult situation because the other party cannot read my face to see how well I don't understand. I always get nervous about speaking on the phone. Anyway, there was no problem with my card and they had no data about the transaction that I was trying to complete so my only other option was to contact the company that processes the credit card payments for Amazon China.

For that, I used Skype. I bravely called the Chinese payment proccessing company. Since I wouldn't expect the first person that you reach to be able to speak English, I spoke a little Chinese. It was probably stupid, but this is all I said. "Sorry. I can't speak Chinese." She said in Chinese, "Hello?" Then I said, "Would you speak English for me?" I don't know what the tones for the words Chinese and English are supposed to be, so I think I said them wrong. I'm pretty sure it was wrong. I don't hear these two words in the dramas that I'm watching. Upon listening to the recording again, it sounds like my tones on 'give me' are not good. I was almost laughing after she had said hello in response to my first statement. Anyway, I believed the answer I got was that she could not speak English. Upon listening to it again, I can understand it better but not perfectly. It sounds like she says she doesn't hear well. I don't know if that's in reference to English or if she meant that she doesn't understand what I'm saying! So then I said in Chinese, "I speak English." I didn't know what she said next, but now I think she asked me, "Who are you calling?" but this not the word 'who,' it's the direction word, 'which way,' if I now understand correctly. I didn't catch what she said so I didn't answer that and so she said again, "Hello?" and I said, "Hello" and then she asked me the same question again. So I start over again and say in Chinese, "Sorry, I can't speak Chinese." She says, "Don't worry about it" in Chinese. And then she said something in Chinese but I'm not quite clear on what the meaning is. She probably just asked why I'm calling. Then I ask in Chinese, "Is there someone who can speak English?" And she responds to me in Chinese, "It's possible. You may speak English." (My translations are kind of literal. The correct translation probably sounds more natural.) So then I ask in English, "It's OK to speak English?" She says, "Yes." Then I confirm with her that I have the correct company to which she answered "Yes." Then I try to confirm that they process payments for Amazon. After that question she told me, "hold on please."

Perhaps it was naive of me to expect that the second person would have been told that there was an English speaker on the phone and for me to expect that person to start off in English! So you can imagine my amusement when the 2nd woman taking the phone answered in Chinese and again I had to spit out my horrible Chinese. This time I mistakenly said, "Sorry. I... I can speak Chinese. English--. Can you speak English?" I didn't even know I left out the negative! I just realized it now after listening to the recording. I probably started the question with the word 'English' because of Japanese syntax. Either that or I was thinking about the words 'Chinese' and 'English' because I just knew that the tones weren't correct. Then she answered my question. I think her response means that she can't speak English, but not in those exact words. Then the next statement she said I didn't catch it at the time, but now I understand it. She said, "I can't clearly hear what you are saying, right now." That sentence pretty much passed over my head at the time, so next I asked, "Can you speak English?" She answered back, "It's not possible." So then I asked, "Is there someone who can speak?" I inadvertently omitted the word 'English' in my question. Then she asked me something I didn't understand so I said, "What?" Then I think she rephrased the same question. The wording is almost identical. She asked me, "Please, what is your question?" Then, not knowing what else to say, I said, "I can't speak Chinese." which made me laugh because here I am calling a Chinese company about my paying for my order at Amazon China to buy DVDs of Chinese TV dramas and I can't even speak Chinese! So then she said in Chinese, "well then you just speak English and I'll speak Chinese."

So I said to her in English, 'OK, I don't know if I will understand you.' Then I heard her gasp. I can only imagine what ran through her mind as she heard me speak English. Then she said something in Chinese which I still don't understand. So from there I tried to explain in simple English. After that she did her best to speak to me in English. She couldn't explain well but eventually I got the idea that I needed to activate a new verification feature that the credit card companies are using now. So at the end, I told her, "OK. Maybe I understand" and she sounded so relieved.

Then I called the credit card company again and I found out how to enroll for the special security feature. I had to go to a website, in Japanese, and fill out the form there. I waited a while for it to process and then went back and successfully paid for my Amazon China order.

Now I just need to finish watching the drama I'm on now so I can start on my new ones. Any commentary on my funny phone call to China?


  1. I can't wait until I can speak enough Japanese to get myself into conversations like this. :)

    Actually, I think I probably could say what you said in Chinese... Maybe I should stop holding back and just try... Hmm.

    Congrats on ordering from Amazon China! My first order from Amazon Japan was pretty exhilarating. :) Now I buy things from BK1 and the JP PSN all the time and think nothing of it.

    If were making the call, I probably would have tried English first, though... I have to wonder how that would have gone. Probably not a whole lot different.

  2. Brave guy! I wouldn't dare attermpt to fix a financial issue in a foreign country in a foreign language with that level of fluency. No way! Who knows what you actually bought or how much you were charged?! Funny stuff though. Keep up the good posts.


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