No why

One of the responsibilities I have in my new job is to interview applicants for our TEFL course. The point is mainly to test their English proficiency, but I also want to find out if they are motivated enough to be a good teacher.

Today I had the following exchange:

Me: “So, why do you want to be an English teacher?”
Candidate “No why.”

“No why” is a direct translation from the Chinese 没有为什么, and on the surface is a harmless chinglish version of “no reason”. But who says “no reason”? Sulking teenagers, people who are in a very bad mood, close friends who can’t be bothered to do something. It’s not something you say in formal situations because self-evidently there is a reason for everything, and denying that there is one just means “I don’t want to tell you” or “I’m not going to take the trouble to think about it”.

Imagine this situation:

Me: “I’d like to send this box to England”
Postal clerk: “You can’t send it in your own box. You must use our box.”
Me: “Why?”
Postal clerk: “No reason.”

You might think this clerk is going out of their way to be unhelpful here, but she’s not. That’s just the normal answer.
Does this matter? maybe not, but it’s quite a telling example of the influence of an education system where students are expected to do as they are told rather than ask questions.

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