day of week

Speaking Chinese

28 November 2006

I’ve been teaching the kids some basic Cantonese. I speak very little myself, so I’m planning to practice with the kids too. Everyone I’ve spoken to, tut tuts me and say I should teach them Chinese (Mandarin). But I don’t know anyone who speaks it! Everyone from my extended family speaks Cantonese. And we’ll have no one to practice with. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn both.

Most of my ABC (Australian Born Chinese) friends don’t speak Chinese or any Asian dialect, and like me, they all want their kids to learn it. The ones with kids have enrolled them into weekend Chinese classes, but hmm, I think my kids are still a bit young.

I used to go to those weekend Chinese classes! I think I was 8 years old. The only thing I can remember is Wo Ai Ni (I love you) – and that wasn’t because of the classes haha. Plus I know some awesome Cantonese swear words, as every Asian kid should.

Anyway, I remember having a traumatic time in those weekend classes. In fact, everyone I knew seems to have the same story – our parents forced us through those classes, everyone put up with it, and everybody hated it and inwardly loathed it with every bone in their body. So, no. Probably not a great learning outcome, you think? I dunno, maybe things have changed since then. I should check it out.

I have a friend who’s a Chinese teacher. She just had a baby, and I’m hoping that she’ll hold little home-based playgroup classes where parent and child learn Chinese words together. That sounds like much more fun. But for the time being, my mum teaches us all a new phrase each week and we all practice around the house. Even my husband is picking up a few words!

Sean calls Callum, gor gor (big brother), and Callum calls Sean, di di (little brother). Which makes my heart go soft.

And I once heard Callum saying “Sean! Fi dee! Will ya?!” (which means, hurry up!).

He also knows that people who don’t speak Chinese, won’t know what Poh Poh (grandma) means, and will refer to her as “my grandmother”. But I don’t know if he understands the general connection between people’s appearance/race and their language (haven’t explained that one to him). So I don’t know with what information he’s deciding to use the different words.

Anyway, I’m hoping speaking Chinese will come a lot more naturally to our family as time goes by. It’s definitely not natural at the moment. And I can see it’ll be hard work as the kids go to school. But you know, half this family is Chinese! And remembering who you are is probably a good thing.