In September 1999 I went to Austin Texas with David, the co-owner of this Tai chi site and also my student. It was my first time coming to America and my English was still very poor. One day I went to 7-11 wanting to buy a drink. When I walked in the clerk said, “Hi there.” I looked around and saw I was the only one in the store so figured out he was talking to me. But why did he say “Hi there” I wondered? Yes, I’m here I thought. I was remembering what my English teacher taught: when you first meet someone you should say “ Hello, how do you do?” and if you met this person before then you can say “How are you?” So I wondered why the clerk didn’t say, “Hello, how do you do?” instead of “Hi there”. Then I moved to Canada and, after 7 years of English immersion, have yet to hear someone use “How do you do?” I often hear people saying, “How are you doing?” but sometimes I’m not doing anything when they and it confused me for a moment again. At the end of conversation many people will say, “Have a nice one” and I wonder, “Have a nice one what?” There are a lot of sentences that never show up in the English textbooks and these just confused me.
There are a lot of people learning English in Taiwan, and many of these people can read and pass the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) but they cannot speak English. This is because they are afraid to make mistakes when speaking and losing “face” i.e. giving other a chance to tease them, or causing their status in the eyes to others to fall.
I think besides English there are also many things that will happen in our daily life that are never taught at school. Old theory and information can’t be applicable in every situation, especially new ones. Then we can only depend on our experience to face the new thing. Experience is gained from practice; sometimes we fail while practicing but it can still give us good experience. Then the next time we shouldn’t make the same mistake.
So we shouldn’t be afraid to fail. There are some Chinese maxims that says, “Failure is the mother of success.” And “Can’t gain wisdom without experience.”