(2) Making Mistakes – Enjoy Floundering

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May 16, 2019 01:33
I usually don’t practice English with Chinese people, because I think in doing so, we are in effect teaching each other mistakes. But over the past few weeks, I showed up in several “English corner” sessions, the reason being that my American friend, M, invited me there. He organized the activities.

There, even though I found the attendees speaking English full of basic-level mistakes, I shut up and had no desire to correct them. It would've been considered rude to point them out to their faces, especially in front of a bunch of strangers. But in one session, when I heard a guy I was familiar with make quite a few elementary mistakes, I kindly whispered to him that he had made some mistakes and explained why.

He had previously said something like this: “Recently I will go to …,” “I opened my smartphone and saw the news …,” etc..

I swear that I was being very polite. (Not to sound brazen, but I think I’m politer than most Chinese people. There are some reasons for it. I may explain about them in a future entry if you’re interested.) But I saw an expression of irritation flashing across his face, so I realized that few people are like me – a person with a positive attitude toward making mistakes.

I enjoy floundering on Lang-8, where luckily I have a few friends who dot the i's and cross the t's and who are willing to help others. I sometimes leave expressions and structures I’m unsure about subjected to my friends’ scrutiny. If they correct them, then I will improve. For example, the expressions “not to mention,” “let alone” and “much less” are all translated into “更不用说” in Mandarin. I felt the last one to be somehow different from the other two, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

A few days ago, when I was writing, despite knowing that it would’ve been safer to use “let alone,” I intentionally used “much less” to see if it was correct, as in “they would have lent money to a stowaway, much less a Peking university student going on to MIT.” A friend corrected the mistake, with a pointer saying that the expression usually goes with a negative in front. Reading this, I suddenly made sense of the expression and of why there’s a “less” in it – which had bothered me quite a bit.
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