It’s about time Brendan got some love for his skills! When he showed me around Beijing the summer before last, I was amazed at his Chinese. To me, he sounded completely indistinguishable from a native Beijinger. Admittedly, coming from Taiwan, the Beijing accent is a bit hard for me to judge, but there were other signs. When got in a taxi on the way to a punk concert, the cab driver was in a pissy mood. Within a minute or two, though, Brendan’s chit-chat seemed to have to guy at ease. Even though we didn’t know how to get to our location, the guy was smiling and chatting cheerily with us. Then there’s his disturbingly large vocabulary of characters. Despite the fact that he lives in Beijing, he seemed to have an eidetic knowledge of traditional characters, and their etymology over the couple thousand years.

At the time, my thought was, “this guy’s an animal“. Now, the China Daily seems to think so, too:

Anyone who has been in Beijing for a while knows how the taxi drivers behave – they talk a lot about everything. Hence the other day, Brendan O’Kane, an Irish American who has been living in Beijing for the past four years, was not surprised that the cabbie started chatting even before he’d gotten comfortable in his seat.

For about 10 minutes, the driver tried to convince him that “foreigners can never really learn Chinese”.

O’Kane was amused. Apparently, the taxi driver had assumed he was a Chinese. Dark brown haired, O’Kane is of medium height and has a slim figure. He admits that from time to time, people in China mistaken him as a Uygur.

“I am American,” says the 24-year-old in articulated Mandarin, as clearly and fluently as one might expect from a native speaker.

The taxi driver was suspicious. For a while, he threw several glances back at his passenger.

China Daily: Linguist left speechless