I’ve been learning English for more than 10 years, but I’m still not a good speaker. Such a feeling becomes clearer after I came here. I feel embarrassed when people ask me, How are you?
There is such a dialogue in my middle school English textbook.
Li Lei : “How are you?”
Han Mei : “Fine. Thank you. And you?”
Li Lei : “I’m fine, too. Thanks.”
These are the first English sentences I learnt. Lucy and Jim are another two important characters in this series of textbooks. As a result, thousands of Chinese girls called themselves Lucy when they need English names, including me. (Lucy’s family name is King. Such a coincidence, my family name is Wang, which means King in Chinese. You know…It’s a name made for me. )
I am an adult now, studying in abroad. But they will live in the text book, forever young.
People always make jokes about this short conversation. Here comes one. One day, a Chinese student, studying in America as many of us, rides his bike to school. Unfortunately, he gets into a traffic accident. When the driver comes to check his injury, he asks the student: “How are you?” “Fine, thank you. And you?” The student answers, with his face and legs broken and bleeding.
I used to be such a student. I got surprised when the foreigner I meet didn’t answer me with “Fine, thank you. And you?” after my “How are you?”
I should have been too surprised if I kept the same idea now, because nobody answers me in that way. I was surprised once. An old lady, may in her 80s, said “Fine, thank you. And you?” to me. Well… it is not an absolutely Chinglish. It may be just an old fashion way.
But I still feel confused. What should I say when asked “How are you?” The easiest question in English. You can say “good” or “fine,” of course. What if you are not good or fine at all?
I got a very serious cold in last November. Every time people asked me “How are you?” I tried to I was not good, not good at all. I even made a joke about my cough. It turned out nobody cared your answer. Whether you are fine or not, it’s not important.
The same as “How is your weekend?” At first I got quick nervous when people started talking about weekend. I thought I might prepare myself with some weekend activities to join the conversation.
When people ask “How are you?” they don’t mean it. It’s just a greeting, as people ask “Have your lunch yet?” or “We can have dinner together someday” in China. Someday may be tomorrow, a week later, a month later, or never.