Reason #582 Why we’re bent on learning the language and learning it well

Speaking of foreign gong shows, this is funny story from a foreigner in Shanghai, written to his cousin about learning and working in Chinese in the 1860’s. From one of our China history texts:

“Most foreigners who come to China have the notion that in a year they will master the language. They get a teacher and pound away vigorously for a week or perhaps a month and then give up in disgust.”

Accordingly, they made ludicrous mistakes which negated all their endeavors. He told his cousin of hearing a foreign speaker in Shanghai trying to tell his Chinese audience that ‘Jesus is here also’; the speaker, mudding his tones and aspirates, succeeded only in assuring the puzzled listeners that ‘Jesus is inside shaving his head.’

“If I could have it my way, not a single foreigner should say one word in public teaching till he had lived with the people and studied the local dialect of his area at least five years, and passed an examination. Just imagine the ridicule which such people bring…” [Edited slightly]

No doubt we’ll amass many of our own such episodes… I think we probably already have a good start with the marijuana , the question about the monk, and whatever else people are too polite to tell us about. Our sessions with the tutor are supposed to start next week; that will make it a little nuts since our grad classes start at the same time and the ESL semester is in the start-up-chaos phase, but it will be sooo worth it!