Grandpa’s Pidgin English
When my grandfather was young he ventured out from his home in northern Jiangsu Province to scrap out a living in cosmopolitan Shanghai, where he worked for a boss from Ningbo. He was a naturally bright and capable individual, who was adept at ingratiating himself to others, and as such he was often sent out on tasks involving dealings with foreign nationals, and in the process he picked up some Pidgin English.
Grandpa was neither a particularly capable English learner, nor was he incompetent. And anyway in those days there were no textbooks, no teachers, and of course no immersive language environment in China. But, he did have one coign of vantage—he had direct contact with foreign on a regular basis, and the “free language lessons” he got by having face- to- face conversations with them allowed him to pick up English in real time.
Every night he would pull out his notebook with the “English” he had learned that day scrawled about in random jigjagged configurations on the page. Actually, there wasn’t an English letter to be found in the whole book, as the “English” was all written in Chinese characters. So there he was holed up in his apartment late every night diligently reciting words and straining his brain to memorize them by rote.