This week at my favorite local Thai restaurant, I experienced a first.
Living in a Chinese-speaking country, I am quite accustomed to the frustration of not being able to communicate clearly. I have a basic knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, but my language acquisition over the past year and a half has been relatively slow. Because Morrison is a “no Chinese zone” for the students who are supposed to be getting an American education, there is little opportunity (or need) to practice Chinese during my work week.
I do, however, try to use as much Chinese as possible when I’m going out to run errands or grab dinner, and I have to say that most of the shop and restaurant owners are very gracious. I think they enjoy the fact that I’m trying to speak their language, and some of them go as far as to teach me as I shop and interact with them. I point to something and say, “guo yu zenme shuo?” (or “how do you say this in Chinese?”) and they say the word for me. I try to repeat it, and I inevitably butcher the tones or the pronunciation in the process. They repeat it for me, slower this time. And so the process goes, and so I learn Chinese little by little.