Know Your Chinese: Wenchong Liang
By Stephanie Wei under General

My mom always told me that speaking Chinese would be a valuable skill to have. At least once a month, she’ll suggest I move to Shanghai for a year to hone my now very rusty Mandarin Chinese. “Speak to me in Chinese,” she often says to me while we talk on the phone. “You need to practice.” Yeah, yeah, a minute later, I revert back to Chinglish.

Well, she’ll be happy to hear me say that she was right (as moms usually are), and oddly, being able to speak Mandarin was somewhat useful at the PGA Championship on Saturday.

China’s Wenchong Liang set a new course record at Whistling Straits in the third round with an eight-under 64. I did my mom proud by striking up conversation in Chinese with Liang’s manager, who was taken aback and asked where I was from. I told him that I grew up in Seattle. He said, “You were born in the US or…?” Yes, in the US. “Your Chinese is very good,” he said. (Told my mom who said, “Yeah I know because you don’t have much of an American accent. Most American-born Chinese have strong ones.” But in reality, I feel like I can barely form a sentence these days since I never speak it.)

Anyway, I wrote a story about Liang’s record-breaking round over at the Wall Street Journal. Here’s an excerpt.

After breaking the course record at Whistling Straits with a remarkable eight-under 64 in the third round of the PGA Championship, China’s Wenchong Liang and his small entourage were aflutter.

His manager Yao Wang was running around frantically trying to arrange interviews with CBS, XM Radio and the rest of the media for his client. It was new territory for them. Wang had walked the Whistling Straits course with Liang while holding a still camera in one hand and a video camera in the other.

My colleague, the Journal’s John Paul Newport, asked Wang if this was Liang’s best round ever, “No, no, only one of his best rounds. He shot a 60 in India in 2008 to win the [Indian Open],” he said.

Nearby, his caddie, Ibrahim Gaus of Singapore, puffed on a cigarette while leaning on Liang’s big red-and-white leather bag of Honma clubs. Had Liang realized he was having an historic low round?  “Yes, yes, but he stayed calm, very calm,” Gaus said.

What’s more, Liang is very likable and charming despite the language barrier. He had a translator, Mr. Lee, who like my mother is from Taiwan. (FYI, not much was lost in translation from my perspective. I was impressed with how accurate the translation was.) The reporters who gathered around Liang after his press conference to ask him more questions were charmed by him.

When one reporter asked him if he knew Yi Jianlian, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, he replied, “Only from watching him on TV.”

After a slight pause, Liang smiled coyly and quipped, “Does Jianlian know Wenchong Liang?”

Everyone laughed.


Asian-ness Scale (1-10, 1: Michelle Wie, totally Americanized; 5: Se Ri Pak, somewhat assimilated; 10: Eun-Hee Ji, 한국말): Liang = 3

[Photo via AP]