The Olympic Village
“Do you speak any english?”
A blank stare and a slight head shake was her response.
After gathering up some extra strength I decided to test my language skills.
Here we go…
“Ni… Ni hao, wo shi… Da’wei. Ummm. Ni jiao shenme… zhongwen ming zi?
One of the biggest smiles of surprise and delight I had ever seen was her response.
She understood me! She knows what I said. This is amazing. This is wonderful.
did she really understand me?
Was my pronunciation ok and did I use the right tones..?
What followed was a full conversation between two strangers in Mandarin Chinese. I found out about her family life, how she took the high speed trains into work every day, and more…
As the conversation went on – my speaking confidence rose.
This has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. My life long goal of learning a second language had been fulfilled.
This was a wonderful private victory for me. Especially thinking of where my language journey began. With all of the hours I spent writing flash cards, sitting in class, listening to hours and hours of the audio CD sets, watching movies in Mandarin, and so on.
(Quick Side Note: None of the Mandarin words were even close to english words. Not even the names. The Chinese foreigners who want an english name just chose whatever they want – because theres no correlation.)
Another reason this was such a neat moment for me was that. It turned what would have been a mundane moment into a great exchange of humanity for us both.
And finally, now that I can speak the language (I still have a ways to go) it opens me up into an entirely new world – that was not there before.
And, now that we are globally connected. Understanding other cultures will continue to be key moving forward as leaders.
“…to prepare for leadership in todays world,
it is more necessary then ever
to be knowledgeable about cultures and societies
with norms and values other than your own.”
– David Holloway