I am in constant amazement of the people I meet from other countries while in Beijing. In the community of expatriates, I have found that English is the most common mutually spoken language. Those who are not native English speakers have such an impressive grasp on English as well as their own native language.
For example, I have met an awesome girl who is two years older than I am from Guatemala. She speaks her native language, Spanish, as well as [perfect] English, French, and is on the way to mastering Chinese. She knows four languages! That is astounding to me. My boss at my company is from Denmark and knows Danish, German, English and Chinese. His three and four-year-old daughters are also trilingual.
This trait of knowing several languages is so common among people from Europe, South America, and here in China. It makes me feel a little silly knowing how to speak only very basic Spanish and struggling to learn Chinese.
While my Chinese barely at a basic level, I am so lucky to have such great co-workers who are helping me learn Chinese. Our translator in the office teaches me one Chinese phrase each day and I’m hoping this will add up to my being able to communicate in Mandarin.
Wish me luck/ hǎo yùn / buena suerte / bonne chance 🙂