Everyday Essentials and Summer Study

90100879 5My Rosetta Stone Chinese lessons proved extremely valuable a few days ago. My son—smack in the middle of his terrible twos—thought it was pretty funny that he had flushed baby wipes down the toilet, but I was distressed because we didn’t have a plunger. Fortunately, there are plenty of stores in our neighborhood that sell just about anything you’d ever need, so I went out to make a purchase. Unfortunately, although these stores have everything, you can never find anything. After a fruitless search, I had to ask a clerk. He didn’t speak English, so I was stuck with the problem of figuring out a way to pantomime what a plunger is or what it’s for. After briefly considering gestures and sounds I might have to make to get across the idea of a toilet that’s “no good,” I was relieved to remember that I’d just learned some terms I could use. “Ma tong, bu hao” worked wonders, and I was shown to the selection of plungers hiding on a bottom shelf behind the rice cookers in the electronics section (of course).

As the school year comes to an end and my family prepares to return to the United States for the summer, I think I’ll miss the sometimes-fun, sometimes-maddening challenges—like the plunger incident—that come with living in a new country. Of course, I’ll also appreciate the familiar comfort of shopping at a big-box store or ordering a safe hot dog from a street vendor. At one market here, I sometimes feel I’m taking my chances with stinky tofu or some unrecognizable part of some unrecognizable animal. (Now that I think about it, I guess I’m not exactly considering the contents of a good old American hot dog, am I?) I’m starting to worry, though, that my progress in Mandarin will be stunted without the daily interactions I’m used to having with storekeepers, taxi drivers, my son’s teachers, and others. This is one reason I’m happy that I’ve started learning the language with Rosetta Stone. I’m still building my vocabulary—and my confidence—but I’m hoping that having more time to focus on the lessons and solidify some basics will be beneficial.

I’m also concerned that my son’s language progress will suffer without the daily immersion he gets at his bilingual preschool. He hears Mandarin every day, and his Mandarin is great. My son seems to understand everything that teachers, babysitters, and even strangers say to him here—at least as much as any two-year-old would in his native language. I fear that no Mandarin for two months will set him back, so I’ll try sharing my Rosetta Stone lessons with him to fill that void. I hope the two of us will be able to take a little time every day or two to keep the vocabulary and sounds fresh in our minds.

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Michael Russell

Michael Russell moved to Taiwan several months ago with his wife and son. He came along as the self-described “trailing talent” after his wife found a great job there—and that meant looking for work. It quickly became obvious that speaking at least a little Mandarin would make a huge difference in Michael’s prospects, whether he wanted to continue his career as a lawyer, or if he were going to try a new path. However, the scheduling demands of settling into a new community and culture, job networking, and some part-time work—plus the cost of formal language lessons—got in the way, and he hasn’t made significant language-learning progress thus far. His son is now his best source for Mandarin vocabulary, thanks to everything he’s picked up in his preschool class. Beyond the professional aspect, Michael is excited about learning Mandarin just for fun, and for the sake of getting around easily, eating well, and getting to know people. He has a broad, but not necessarily deep, experience with languages. Michael lived in Italy for several years as a child and has since studied and used it occasionally. He also studied French and Spanish for several years, but he’s not more than passable at them. Turkish, Japanese, and Mandarin are languages Michael has dabbled in, but he hasn’t had the chance or motivation to really focus on them, until now. Michael looks forward to his experience with Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe Chinese.
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