One man’s cul­tural jour­ney

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ihad been very in­ter­ested in var­i­ous lan­guages and cul­tures but I found only Chi­nese is very prac­ti­cal. When I started learn­ing Chi­nese in Prince­ton, I found the teach­ers there were very re­spon­si­ble. They taught us the lan­guage by us­ing the orig­i­nal script of 1930s movie in Shang­hai as the text­book — very lively learn­ing ma­te­ri­als.

I re­mem­ber we had to sign a con­tract with the school about the com­mit­ment of do­ing the class study: never speak English in class—only Chi­nese. If I speak one English word, I would be dropped out from the class. Very strict teach­ing prin­ci­ple.

Also I found only with Chi­nese teach­ers or fac­ulty, I could speak Chi­nese even out­side the class­room mainly be­cause they didn’t speak English, lit­er­ally. Other lan­guage teach­ers, af­ter the class, they would speak English. Only the Chi­nese staff, in the study cen­ter or li­brary, they all spoke Chi­nese. It was great for me to prac­tice the lan­guage as I could speak to them in the lan­guage.

When I stud­ied and was trained at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity, I took the chance to com­mu­ni­cate with the col­leagues com­ing from China, to know what was go­ing on in the coun­try and to en­deavor my Chi­nese study.

I used to choose and con­dense all the com­pul­sory and se­lec­tive cour­ses into eight or nine months in a year so that I could take the rest of the time to travel and ex­pe­ri­ence Tai­wan, Hong Kong or other places in China.

China is un­der­tak­ing great changes within which makes the peo­ple feel strange even at their home cities. For me it changes ev­ery day. I have been learn­ing the lan­guage for over the decades but still the cul­ture seems like a very big ball to me, I am only ly­ing on the sur­face of it, dig­ging to­wards its core, ev­ery inch a time. And I am still on the out­side layer of the ball.

Some­thing can be very sim­ple to the peo­ple in the so­ci­ety, like a 2- or 3 year-old child can un­der­stand the mean­ings but a for­eigner may never get it. But I am grate­ful that I learned so much in my ev­ery day life with my col­leagues and my stu­dents. Their daily med­i­cal prac­tice some­times in­spired me to think why this way, not that way.

There is a fa­mous sen­tence from Con­fu­cian Analects on how a man may find in­struc­tors for him­self. The Mas­ter said, “When I walk along with two oth­ers, they may serve me as my teach­ers.” I have been walk­ing along with the “two oth­ers” since I am in the coun­try. Nathan Cong­don, China’s first for­eign eye doc­tor work­ing in a clinic in the cap­i­tal of Guang­dong prov­ince

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