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A Negative Comment May 4, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Mandarin, Motivation, Speaking.
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I was walking down the Las Vegas Boulevard last week with 2 colleagues, both were native Mandarin speakers. We have known each other for years, well before the time I picked up Mandarin. So we usually communicate in English. Imagine how inconvenient they were not being able to speak their native languages because of my presence. So I started to communication in Mandarin with them.

One colleague gave me a comment, in English, “It would be better for me to understand you if you speak in English, or even Cantonese”.

I think it was meant to be a joke. But I was silent for about 10 seconds, didn’t know how to reply. Recovering from my shock, I began to think about what lessons I could draw from this incident.

1) Never say anything discouraging to the language learners around you
You have to be very careful giving out comments. You may think it is a joke, but it might not be the case for the receiving end. On the other hand, some people are tired of overdosed compliments. But I believe they are way better than negative comments.

2) Take the comment seriously
It could be a joke, but it could be true to some extends. My Mandarin has been going through a set-back in the past few months, mainly due to my concentration on French. I know it is time for me to pick it up seriously again.

3) Choose your practice partners carefully
Practice only with someone who are helpful and eager to see you succeed. My other colleague has been very helpful to me. I practice with her from time to time. She kind of gets used to my broken Mandarin, and would try to guess what I am trying to say. The only problem is that she speaks too fast.

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Comments»

1. 米蘭 - May 4, 2007

Edwin,

This EXACT same situation has happened to me a few times, however, my face turns bright red with anger every time. I have to try very hard to reduce my expressions. Especially when people don’t think you take the language seriously. Even if they do know you take it seriously, some people actually think it is helpful to speak only my native language to them.

Now I know I’m not the only person in the world who has gone through this experience. I feel so much better now reading your post.

Sometimes I think whether the people who are guilty of this actually know they are actually doing it. I’m so lucky to have my wife who gives me hours upon hours of constant practice.

Milan.


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