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.
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.Together 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.
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.