Thursday, 7 June 2012

These people must be dense! ~ Steph

We often wonder what Li Lin must think about our family.  As she listens to us try and talk to her with our limited half-Mandarin-half-English garble, she must think that she’s fallen into a Chinese speaking family that is full of people that either:
  1. Have horrible pronunciation
  2. Half the time do not know the meaning of basic words
  3. Have an incredibly limited vocabulary
  4. All of the above in a healthy dose!
I have mentioned before and will mention again – I think that Sara having learned Mandarin before us adopting Li Lin was a very helpful thing.  I would strongly encourage anyone considering international adoption (particularly those adopting toddlers or older children) to spend some time learning their child’s native language.  It helps the child feel more comfortable more quickly.  It helps to decrease the frustration that the child feels if they are not understood.  It increases the chance that the child will be able to maintain some level of fluency in their first language, which is good on a variety of levels.

Sara’s Mandarin is pretty good.  In fact, I think it is absolutely awesome!  She can communicate at the level of a preschooler with relative ease!  Of course, with a language like Mandarin, there is a large gap between useless (pretty close to where I am) and awesome.  Sara would fall somewhere within those boundaries.  The problem with Mandarin in our family is not Sara’s awesome though somewhat limited vocabulary, it’s the rest of us who are the problem.  I had a few lessons as well.  I learned how to fluently count, give dates and times, order food, ride a taxi, introduce myself and tell people how many kids I have, what their ages are and what their names are.  Li Lin is not particularly interested in any of that information.

Our children were all able to count to ten fluently.  They could say ‘hi’, ‘I’m fine’ and ‘I Love you’.  Shortly before heading out to China Sara taught us all a few more phrases.  Once we got Li Lin, Sara was the main communicator since she had her Mandarin.  The rest of us spent our time telling her ‘wo ai ni bao bao’ [I love you baby], or ‘wo ai ni mei mei’ [I love you little sister].  She must have been thinking we were a bunch of broken records!  Not being able to talk to someone is a big deal to those in our family... there is rarely much free air time!  So, instead of speaking English to Li Lin to help her learn this new language we are all fluent in, we started speaking to Li Lin in a cross of Mandarin, made up words that sound like Mandarin words, and Mandarin words that are completely mispronounced or misused!  The kids and I picked up our Mandarin from listening to Li Lin and Sara talk.

The few words we picked up quickly were ‘bu’ [no], along with ‘bu yao’ [don’t want].  Li Lin was quickly taught to say ‘duibuqi’ [sorry] and we also learned ‘shuo’ [say].  So Li Lin was inundated with ‘wo ai ni’s during her happy times.  When she got upset or angry and hit, she would get a ‘shuo duibuqi’ [say sorry]  I’m sure at some point she must have thought, “These people are so dense.  They look old enough to have more than a dozen word vocabulary!”

Yesterday I called Li Lin to come eat lunch so I asked her to come for ‘cha’ [tea] while doing the eating motion.  She looked at me quizzically but came.  As we were sitting at the table, she was full so I asked her if I could ‘he’ [drink] her eggs!  She looked at me and laughed.  Sara clarified and so I then asked if I could ‘chi’ [eat] her eggs, and she gladly agreed!

If we don't figure something out soon, we'll have a Li Lin who will be able to speak 3 languages... English, Mandarin and Parent.


  1. HI! Got up early and read your blog. You had me in stitches at 6:30 am. Can only imagine a conversation between all of you at the supper table.Know the feeling (Nico). Glad to hear things are getting more and more familiar for the little one. The smiles in her pictures and her laughing tells me she is liking her new surroundings and new family. Thoughts and Prayers for all in a continual flow. Ropa

  2. hahah hilarious! at least it's not clanging cymbals <3 love you guys!

  3. I had to laugh when I pictured you "drinking" her eggs, Steph!! Too funny! :) So glad she's settling into the Parent family so well. Love to all, Pam xo

  4. Well Li Lin sure seems to really love her "dense" family. I think it actually reveals a good side of Li Lin. She is actually patient and accepting of your mistakes and attempts to communicate with you all. She, on the other hand, is so expressive that one can guess at her meanings even if one does not understand her words. She fits into your family perfectly. Welcome home little Li Lin. Love you all. Mom xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

  5. I would like to say that Parent is definitely a great language for her to learn! I was amazed during my recent visit at how secure Li Lin feels in her place in your family and how quickly she has seemed to just fit in to the Parent household. Kudos to you all, including the kids, for all the ways you have communicated your love and acceptance to Li Lin. Your family makes me smile! Love to all, Aunt Deb

  6. Aww, this is super cute! She sounds adorable - and your family interactions are so precious! Glad everything is well :) - Xenia