Is “ka-ching” a Chinese word?

Michael Nagle/Getty Images Readers of the New York Times might have been lucky enough to catch this gem of a story in the Metro section yesterday. In response to the already large and rapidly growing Chinese population of Flushing Queens, non-Asian residents are starting to attend free Mandarin classes being offered by the community. Many ...

601615_070529_chinese_05.jpg
601615_070529_chinese_05.jpg

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Readers of the New York Times might have been lucky enough to catch this gem of a story in the Metro section yesterday. In response to the already large and rapidly growing Chinese population of Flushing Queens, non-Asian residents are starting to attend free Mandarin classes being offered by the community. Many longtime residents resent the intrusion of new Asian immigrants. But many are adapting to their changing neighborhood by learning how to communicate better. The current session's class boasts a diverse group of longtime Flushing residents: an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor born in Poland, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, and an African-American woman who grew up in a local housing project.

The 85-year-old, a retired stockbroker named Frank Sygal, already speaks Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Hebrew, English, and Spanish. Chinese would be his eighth language.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Readers of the New York Times might have been lucky enough to catch this gem of a story in the Metro section yesterday. In response to the already large and rapidly growing Chinese population of Flushing Queens, non-Asian residents are starting to attend free Mandarin classes being offered by the community. Many longtime residents resent the intrusion of new Asian immigrants. But many are adapting to their changing neighborhood by learning how to communicate better. The current session’s class boasts a diverse group of longtime Flushing residents: an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor born in Poland, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, and an African-American woman who grew up in a local housing project.

The 85-year-old, a retired stockbroker named Frank Sygal, already speaks Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Hebrew, English, and Spanish. Chinese would be his eighth language.

His progress has been maddeningly slow; at one point, Mr. Sygal approached “dozens” of Chinese people, he said, in a fruitless attempt to translate the word “ka-ching,” a term he had seen in a headline in The New York Post and assumed to be Chinese. He hopes that he will be able to carry on a conversation in Mandarin by the time he is 95.

Nevertheless, Sygal may be his class’s most persistent student:

His first question of the night during one recent class, delivered in the accent of his native Poland, was followed rapidly by several dozen follow-ups: “Why do you say two words for ‘bladder’? I have one bladder! For one bladder it’s two words? What is word for state of Israel? What is word for ‘oral surgeon’? If I go to study medicine in China, what do they teach me?”

Christine Y. Chen is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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