Last weekend Keith and I went to a ward BBQ. As the church is on a busy street, and as free dinner is always a good incentive, the missionaries had set up shop and were trying to lure people over for information and food.
Although only a couple of walk-overs actually came over to eat, one of them was a woman from Japan. My neighbor instantly went over to talk to her, since he had served his mission in Japan and they spoke the same language. Keith and I eventually wandered over to our neighbor and listened to their conversation, even though we couldn't understand any of what they said other than a few words spoken in English.
I was pretty zoned out until the woman said, in English, that she also spoke Chinese. At that my ears perked up, and I picked up a conversation with her in the dulcet tones of the East. We talked about her family and about how she learned Chinese and about how I learned Chinese. We also talked a little bit about the missionaries and our church.
I don't get to speak Chinese very often. I am VERY out of practice, struggling and halting way too often as I search for the right word or the correct grammar pattern. But it was fun to be able to speak to this woman, and I think she even understood some of what I was trying to say. What was really cool is that she is so comfortable in both Japanese and Chinese, that she would say something to me in Chinese and then turn to my neighbor and talk to him in Japanese.
In the end, she wasn't very interested in our church, but at least she made a few new friends and got a free meal out of it. And I got to have a small missionary moment and a Chinese practice session. It was a win all around.
How do you keep up on your language skills? I should study Chinese more often, but it gets discouraging because it is so hard to read. Any suggestions?