I used to speak Mandarin. I was never as fluent as I wanted to be, but I did have a good accent. Liau Lau Shir , my teacher at Taiwan National Normal University, told me so. She tended to be graciously tough on us. She’s in the front row to the left of Steve.11046207_10205929415784858_1940497909372411939_n 

Since returning to the States in 1988, I haven’t needed Mandarin much, so I’ve lost most of my ability to understand, and my ability to speak is about on the level of a toddler. Still, it makes me smile when I hear it, and I try.

I tried this week. A call came through at work, from a gentleman who asked if anyone in the office spoke Cantonese. I’m in East Texas. The odds aren’t great. So, I asked, in my very best Mandarin, if he spoke Mandarin. He said, not so well, but a little. His was infinitely better than mine.26571_1380409600619_247849_nTogether we accomplished his goal. At the end of the call I turned around to see that there was an amazed group of coworkers behind me. They heard my feeble attempts to communicate with a very patient caller and they were impressed. Frankly, I was too. It’s been 30 years.

Probably the least impressed was the very kind man on the other end of the line who stuck with me and graciously thanked me.

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Liau Lau Shir, thank you. My time in your classroom was a blessing in so many ways.

Living where I do, I really should take Spanish, but I’d rather find a conversational Mandarin class in town.

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