This was the first day of my family summer vacation in Montréal, Canada, and we were having breakfast at our hotel. The default language of the wait staff here is French, but when necessary, like turning a switch, they can immediately change to English, most with no accent at all.
Going to the restroom can turn into a real challenge while traveling in China. Soon after our trip started, the children found out that most of the public restrooms are squat toilets. Soon the slang “a hole” emerged amongst the group as a codename for such toilets. When we stopped for bathroom breaks on our way or at restaurants, one of the children would first scout out the bathroom situation and report back to the group. If the report comes back as “a hole,” most of the children would rather hold it until the next bathroom break. When the children asks on the way somewhere, “How long does it take to get there?” They were most likely not inquiring about the distance, but instead trying to estimate when the next bathroom break will be and calculate if holding it in is possible.
In the short span of 8 days — between a Wednesday afternoon and the following Thursday afternoon this Spring — I went to six cities in China.
Part 2 of 2
As typical in China, all the students take English classes almost every day at school from at least 3rd grade up. On the weekends, they go to community education programs, like the one run by Ms. Yao, to receive additional support in English.
Part 1 of 2
My trips to China to visit my 80-year old father tend to be mixed in with work. For the holiday break of December 2015, I was brought to Zunyi (遵义) — a town in Southwest China —by both my curiosity and the enthusiastic invitation of Ms. Zhongqin Yao (姚忠琴), the head of a local community education program known as Sishype Education.
A Chinese person in Sichuan posted this online: "I just can’t speak Mandarin well, (because) I just can’t get rid of my local dialect accent. I’m so depressed. I want to jump off a building. Can someone help me? It’ll be great if someone can tell me how to speak better Mandarin.” What are the many responses to his posts? What do these responses tell us about Chinese people’s attitude toward the status and utility of Mandarin and their local dialects?
About 2,000 years ago in the capital city of the Han Emperor, Yang Xiong was an Imperial Court scholar. Why was he so eager to grab and talk to the local officials and soldiers from all over the country? Two millenniums later, Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren was a young Swedish scholar. Why did he come to China and roamed all over? What do the stories of both of these historical figures tell us about Chinese dialects?
Who are speaking Chinese dialects and where? How are the dialects different from each other? How have these dialects come about? How do Chinese dialects get passed down through the generations in the face of extinguishing forces?
Each sentence you say is a gift to your child. Language is one of the most amazing things you can share with a child.
Generations of children grow up unaware that their language are colored reflecting the period they are in.