What do you like to do?

Lee: Mr. Kao, do you like to eat Chinese food?

Kao: I love to eat it. Chinese food is certainly delicious!

Lee: Does your wife hnow how to cook Chinese food?

Kao: She can cook Chinese food very well.

Lee: Can your children cook, too?

Kao: One child can cook, but she's not willing to; the other one can't cook, he can just eat.

Lee: Do you all know how to speak Chinese?

Kao: The children know how to. My wife does, too. But I can speak only a little.

Lee: You're being too modest. Can you also write Chinese characters?

Kao: No, I can't. Oh, I can write the three characters "one" "two" "three".

Lee: Do you folks like to sing?

Kao: We love to sing.

Lee: What songs can you sing?

Kao: We can sing Chinese, American, and French songs.

Lee: Let's sing a Chinese song, okay?

Kao: Good! Let's sing a Chinese song now!

From Lesson VII, pages 107-108 of SPEAK CHINESE from the National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center 1989
First published by Yale University in 1948, adapted in 1960 to include Chinese script, then in 1982 further revisions were made in both format and content by "emending outdated characters and words."

I decided to chronicle items I find in the barn where I once worked. Picking a page at random, a small story emerged. Mr. Lee appears to be almost an interrogator, establishing just how Chinese Mr. Kao is in eight polite questions.

Mr. Kao loves to eat Chinese food. Mr. Kao is married and his wife can cook Chinese food. They have two children, one who can cook but doesn't, a rebellious teenage girl, her name might be Mailin. They have left China to have another baby, a boy, who is too young to cook. The wife speaks Chinese with her children. Mr. Kao feels left out, lonely even. His limited ability to write no more than 1,2,3 in Chinese suggests he is not Chinese himself.

All is not lost because his family loves to sing, and they can sing songs in three languages! But the inquisitive Mr. Lee is not giving up as he suggests the two men sing together a song in Chinese, to which Mr. Kao readily agrees, but that is where the vignette ends. Do they sing? And does Mr. Kao really know Chinese songs? If so, what song will they sing?

Or this could just be an exercise in conversation, imaginary men talking, no food, no wife, no children, no singing.

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