Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Aaaah, a though! (and unrelated cute pictures)

(the unrelated pictures of the kids skating on the Canal. I love the picture of the wife "helping" Ping skate)

This morning was a little rough with the new cuteness.
She seemed a little angry...
... at everything...
... and everyone.

While I was doing my best to parent her, it bothered me (somewhat) that she was so angry, and then so, happy... like a little cute Jekle and Hyde thing. Only shorter. And Chinese. And still yelling at me in Mandarin. I don't think Hyde knew Mandarin. But I digress.

After the kids were all off to school, I was getting ready for work, reviewing the conversations of the morning... I'll call them conversations, because that sounds better than a "constant stream of arguments which were unending in their proceedings, only disrupted by the need to breath, and maybe try to push someone down the stairs".

Okay, no one got pushed down the stairs... And there really wasn't that much fighting.

But still, my thought was "why will Ping go from happy to utter defiance" as quickly as my wife goes from "not hungry" to "I need chocolate!"

It dawned on me that we are still speaking to her in English... and she dosn't know how we phrase questions.

In English, a common way to ask a question is to raise the tone of the last word. Well, this means NOTHING to a Mandarin speaker. Actually, it means alot. Its the difference between "ma" being "Horse" or "mother". But it is NEVER used to form a question.
We also ask questions by sticking in "do you", "can you", "will you" all over the place. Well, for someone learning the language, this is skipped over as the non-native speaker focuses on the subject of the sentence, not the trappings around it.
We also stick "please" in our sentences... again... this means little to a Mandarin speaker. You would not ask "please" to form a question.

No, if you want a Question in Pings mind (and probably most native Mandarin speakers), you say "ma" at the end of the sentence.

So, to drink a glass of water, and to ask for a glass of water may be the exact same sentence, except the "asking" one will end in "ma".

Makes sense? Kind of? No? Not really...

Okay... point is, all these "questions" we were asking her (Ping, can you pick up the shoes? Can you be quieter? Can you move please?) were all coming across as a "command". They did not have a "ma" at the end, and thusly, no question. In her mind, they may have been bossy, pushy rules being forced on her by her sister, brothers, Mom and Dad.

Now yes, she had to fight for everything for the first 4 years of her life.
And yes, she is stubborn.
And yes, she is selfish at times... all the time.

But still... knowing what we know about the Mandarin language, we should have caught on that all our "questions" were really "commands" to her.

No wonder she goes from happy to defiant in a heart beat! She is probably just matching our "demand" with an equal response.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pointing that out. I'll try to remember it when we bring our little one home later this year.