Each time when I see the word mentor, my son would pop up in my mind. In lots of aspects, he is my mentor. He mentors me on American cultures and English. I remember, I used to speak very loudly on the phone. That’s Chinese culture. He would whisper to me “Mom, don’t scream.” I usually reply “Sorry, I thought I was whispery.” In Chinese culture we rarely say I love you, and almost never say I love you to our parents. My son says I love you to me all the time. When he found out that I had never said I love you to my mom, he was shocked and said, “You should call grandma right away and tell her you love her.” I did! After the first time I said I love you to my mom, I said it every time when I called her. She was living in China, and she died in 2016. I’m so glad I said I love you to her many times. If my son had not encouraged me, I probably would never say I love you to my mom.
In Chinese college at my time, I could only choose one foreign language, I chose Japanese. It means I had to start learning English when I came here as an adult. And you can imagine, my accent was horrible, I’m still working on it. There were thousands of times my son would correct my pronunciation. Sometimes I get frustrated and afraid to talk to people. My son sensed it. One night, there was an autopsy expert talking on TV. He just did an autopsy for a very famous case, the Anna Nicol Smith case. My son pointed at the TV and said to me “Mom, he has a very strong foreign accent, but he has perfect grammar, and is very knowledgeable in his field. You can see that people really listen to him. A person learning a new language after 16 may never get rid of the native accent completely but you can still learn to speak in perfect grammar and wide vocabulary!” His words changed my view of accent, grammar and vocabulary. And I realize that I should not let my accent prevent me from talking to people, and I should keep learning and keep reading to expand my vocabulary.
I remember at one point, I just got complacent, or just been lazy, not actively learning English. One day, he passed me a newspaper, which had a story from Amy Tan, the author of Joy Luck Club. The story is about her mother. Her mother’s x-ray film was misplaced by the hospital, nowhere to be found. Her mother called the hospital a few times with her thick Chinese accent, they kicked her from one department to another, no results. Amy heard, one day she grabbed the phone and asked, “Where is mother’s x-ray film?”, in perfect American accent. The person on the other end of the phone apologizes immediately. That story has stayed with me to this day. It motivates me to keep improving my spoken English.