My 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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