Saturday, March 17, 2007

Back in Pittsburgh I would occasionally meet somone who was in their 60s and 70s and had raised kids in America but could barely understand English, and only spoke Italian or Polish or whatever. And I would think, how did you manage that? At some point, isn't it easier to just learn it. And here, foreigners will say, "I've been here 5 years and I only know 10 words in Chinese!" And I would think, how crazy!

But I'm beginning to see how it happens. Truthfully my Chinese has barely improved since I've come here- I've learned a few nice idiomatic phrases and some new words but not much. You can get busy (whether it's teaching English or working in a steel mill) and realize that lots of things don't really require conversation, and when someone does try to talk you can just nod pleasantly and hope for the best. And find food places that don't require you to talk much. And live and work with people who speak your native language, and that's how it goes.

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