Saturday, November 21, 2009

Passing on the Language

So I am 2nd generation, which means my parents were born abroad and I am the first generation to be born here. Inevitably, what happens as more generations are produced, is that the language becomes lost.

My comprehension, in my family's dialect Fukien, is ok -- I can usually follow the conversations of my aunts and uncle around the dinner table. It also helps that they sprinkle in English words here and there.

My reproduction of Fukien, however, is pretty poor. My tongue feels pretty useless in pronouncing the words correctly.

Fortunately, I've been able to pass on three important phrases to A that should pretty much get her through life:

1) STAND UP ("tsan chi lai"): Used frequently throughout her toddler years when changing her clothes. I still use it to get her to move from her preferred location: planted in front of the TV.

2) HURRY UP ("ha kin nay oh"): Again, probably one of the most useful phrases in parenting. Children never move quite fast enough (unless they are running away from you, diaper-less), so having that phrase handy helps keep us on a time table. It has also come in handy here walking around the city b/c she knows when I say it, she should stay really close to me. It's much more helpful than shouting "HURRY UP!" whenever a questionable person is walking by.

3) BUNS ("ka tsung"): Every culture has an affectionate term for that body part we spend many years wiping clean. Good thing it is such a cute body part. I'm sure being able to refer to it in our native tongue strengthens the cultural bond to our ancestors.

Realistically, the only way she will learn to speak Chinese is by taking Mandarin in high school or college. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit her to spending her weekends in Chinese School.

And really, in the end, the best it will help her with is ordering food in restaurants or helping translate conversations between senior citizens and store keepers, when called upon. That's the best I've been able to do with my Chinese.


humpsNbump said...

I just came across your blog. It's fantastic.

I am a single parent as well - to a 7 month old baby girl. Very interesting to hear a little bit about your reality. Thanks for sharing.

des1 said...

Thanks for the encouragement, hNb! I've just revived my blog, and your comment from 2009 is spurring me on! Hope you and your (now) toddler are doing well!