(Featured Image: author in a tent in Alaska profiting from some time off to crack the Chinese books)

Read Part One HERE

In the two years I spent with the regular army, I knew there was no interest in whitey who spoke Chinese, so I kept it fully to myself. The men of the regular army culture were not the sort to understand why, or otherwise appreciate a brother who spoke Chinese. I never breathed a word of it.

Coming into the Green Berets was a different story. The men there actually respected a brother that was accomplished in a foreign language, a requisite for every Green Beret. I took an aptitude exam required for attendance at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), scoring an ‘unqualified’.

I did what any sensible suicidal maniac would do, I went to the testing lab and took both the Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese language DLI final exams. I passed both with sufficient scores to receive monthly language proficiency pay of $100 per month.

I only had to take a language test once per year to keep my pay coming. In the day, I was informed that I was the only person in the military taking the Cantonese exam. I got to where I was getting every single question correct on the exam… except one. It was driving me nuts because I felt like I was getting them all correct.

I learned the question was a very difficult one to translate. It is a short proverb, and the answers were: 1.) Can’t see the trees for the forest 2.) A miss is good as a mile 3.) Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I could get a room full of Chinese arguing about the answer; they couldn’t all ever seem to agree. I may never know the right answer. Alas!

I taught myself Spanish in 7th Special Forces, when I left there and was assigned to Key West as a SCUBA instructor, I taught myself French as a means to better understand Spanish. I started (no kidding) with the book “French in Ten Minutes a Day.”