I had a rather interesting conversation with someone over the course of last week. And this had to do with the command of different languages. In multi-cultural and multi-lingual context of Malaysia, not everyone is fluent in Chinese, and not everyone is fluent in English. As for me, my understanding of Chinese is rather limited, despite spending some years in vernacular Chinese school. And the same goes to those who are fluent in Chinese may have a somehow limited understanding of English. In circumstances like this, a person who is fluent in Chinese may be speaking in English, but the construction of the sentences in English sounds more like literal translation of Chinese.
For example, a phrase like "I came to my office seven early eight early this morning" would make no sense to an English speaker, but those who speak Chinese would know that it means "I came to my office very early in the morning, or, earlier than my usual office hours."
Back to my conversation with this person. This person is fluent in Chinese, but not so in English. She was trying to express something and it ended up with this: "Good thing you don't know much Chinese, else you die!"
Obviously, I had a shock of my life. Someone wishing that I die!! But she explained that what she meant was that she was not able to respond to my queries fast enough, but if she were able to express it in Chinese, she would be able to do so. She assured me that it did not sound so derogatory in Chinese as it did in English.
Hmmm....interesting...so much so for some cross-cultural communication....