Chinese lessons: part I

Posted on May 11, 2012


I’m not in the habit of talking to old men in parks, but sometimes you have to buck the trend and go with it.  And so it was on Sunday, whilst sitting, reading by a lake in Solidify Lake Park, that I became embroiled in a conversation with an elderly Chinese gentleman.

By conversation, of course what I really mean is him pointing to things, saying them in Chinese and getting me to repeat them.  The novelty lasted for literally minutes.

More interestingly, he was able to tell me through broken English and the universal language of mime that, in his youth, he’d learned Russian at school.  His attempts to get me to repeat his Sino-Russian phrases were somewhat less successful (and, for once, I refrained from starting a chorus of the Russian national anthem this being a park, and not a bar…)

But it turned out his Yinglish is a much more recent addition that he had learned 4 years ago from an 86 year old woman in that very park in the run up to the Beijing Olympics.

He’d wanted to be able to help visitors in 2008 find their way round and was one of thousands of people of all ages that took the opportunity to learn the language.  Four years on and he’s still helping ying guo ren find their way around Beijing.  I only wonder if thousands of Londoners are currently learning Mandarin?  Somehow, I doubt it.

Posted in: Beijing, China, Education