Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Waiting for a friend

Deng Xiang is a friend of mine. His English name is David but I always use the Chinese word for David, Dawei. He's become one of my many Chinese teachers. When we go to lunch he'll say to me: "We need to speak Chinese." And so we switch to his language.

And so he begins to correct my Chinese. It's great. Trouble is, in a restaurant I'm not always sure I'm hearing him correctly. So I write down what he says to verify in writing his spoken words. It wasn't always like this. He uses to just nod in agreement whenever he didn't understand me. That's no good I told him. "How can I improve if you don't correct me?" He'd just nod again, politely.

He's been studying English since grade school but he admits his pronunciation is not always accurate. He's always asking me if he said this or that word correctly, or if his meaning was understood, or if his English is colloquial enough. So I'd help him. But then it hit me.

One day I just nodded politely at one of his not-so-understandable sentences. He was puzzled because he had asked a question and I wasn't answering him. "Dave" he said to me "what is the correct way to say this?"

"You know Dawei" I said to him "If you don't correct me, I'm not going to correct you!"

We both started laughing and from that time forward we are not at all bashful about correcting each other.

Dawei is a great friend.

I drew the quick sketch while waiting for him in front of a Thai restaurant.

A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when true friends meet, but half a sentence is too much when there is no meeting of minds.