I Am One of the Donkeys Here

A long time ago, I studied a bit of Mandarin Chinese. Then about 7 years ago, I decided to get back in the game with a 3 month “immersion” course through Berlitz.  My superb tutor – Weixin – continued on — coming to my office each week for several years.  And we would chat for an hour in Chinese.

Now Chinese is not as easy as it looks. It can be a bit difficult. There are four different tonal sounds so that each word can be pronounced four different ways — with perhaps a dozen entirely different meanings depending on context.  The only word resembling English is the word “mama” which will only get you so far. . . .

After my immersion course and a few months of tutoring, I had the occasion to host a group of Chinese judges and lawyers at my Firm.  I thought to myself I will wow them with my burgeoning knowledge of Chinese and so I took them on a tour of our offices and brought them into our Board room for a meeting.   At one point in my presentation, I noticed some polite laughter which I thought might be a result of my excellent elocution or my Shanghai accent.  However, as they were leaving, their translator pulled me aside and suggested that when I tried to say “I am one of the partners at Holland & Knight,” I had actually said “I am one of the donkeys at Holland & Knight.”  You should say lu shi — not lu zi

I have a feeling that my contratemps was one of the highlights of their trip such that the story will be retold with smiles and great enthusiasm.  Probably for years (sigh) . . . . .   

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