January 26, 2011

Lost in Translation

So in the past month we’ve had to adapt as a family. Lily only speaking Chinese has definitely been stretching for Heather and I, but being a bilingual family has had some highlights as well.

First off, it’s amazing to see how well Sydney and even Aubrey can communicate in Chinese. Seeing them interact with Lily is really cute. For example, the other day Sydney wanted to play with the toy that Lily had. And I sat there and watched my 5 year old try to negotiate the exchange of the current toy she had for the toy that Lily was playing with, in Chinese. It’s also cute to see Lily learning more and more English, saying things like “Caleb I love you” “bye bye” “Mommy” “Daddy” and even being able to identify where her; eyes, ears, nose, and her hair are.

Also, we’ve had some funny lost in translation moments with Lily. Here are two stories.

The first happened a couple weeks ago. I (Matt) got up with the kids and was busy making them breakfast when Lily walked up to me and, in Chinese, told me that she was thirsty. I, also in Chinese, told her to go back to the side of her bed and grab her cup. She quickly ran off and as I returned to the kitchen I felt a sense of accomplishment, that I could communicate in Chinese -on the first try- was rewarding. Well that rewarding feeling quickly faded when Lily returned. It faded because when she came back to the kitchen she stood before me dragging her bed comforter behind her. It was then that I remembered that the word for cup and comforter are the same in Chinese and are only separated by a tonal difference.

(When I told my brother this story he made the observation that Lily is a really obedient girl. I mean, if as a child you went to your parents and said “I’m thirsty” and they replied “Go get your comforter” and you actually did it. That takes some serious obedience.)

The second story comes from my wife. Last night when she was putting the girls to bed Lily kept getting out of bed. So Heather would tell her in Chinese “Lily, go back to your bed” and again she would get out of bed and run towards the kitchen. Heather was dumbfounded because it’s not typical of Lily to be naughty like this. She kept going through this routine until our friend Sarah asked Heather what word she was using for “bed”, it was then that Heather realized she was using the wrong word. She was saying “Lily, go to your kitchen” not “Lily go to your bed”. And that is why she was getting out of bed and running towards the kitchen.

In other realms of life, China is soon going to be celebrating their New Year and Spring Festival. It’s a super fun time to be in China and we’re looking forward to it. It also means that all of us are on break from school for the next little bit. When the next semester starts again I (Matt) will be teaching the “Life Education” course in a community center here, Lily will start going to school with the girls and Heather and I will continue studying Chinese.

Well, that’s all for now,
The Petersons


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