Most of my sister’s Chinese friends speak or at least understand Mandarin.
She explains, “I don’t understand Mandarin because mum and dad spoke Shanghainese.”
“I’m not sure about that… you don’t understand Shanghainese either. You speak more Mandarin than Shanghainese anyway.”
The serious teacher
But she’s learning and for the last 2 years or so C has had a super serious Chinese teacher. There’s always a big wad of homework and weekly 听写 tests.
Apparently the teacher used to rank the kids on the whiteboard according to how many words they got wrong. Mum was a fan of her China-style methods, as are many parents here. I think after she arrived the local “Chinese school” went out of business.
Even my dad is a little scared of her. We bumped into her at the shopping centre last night and she stopped us, “I didn’t see her at class this afternoon.”
Dad had this startled look. “Oh I’m so sorry! I was going to message you this morning but forgot. She is at camp this weekend.”
The last time we forgot to let her know that my sister was overseas, she was asking us and our family friends to check whether C was trying to avoid class after school.
“There’s a big test next week. Make sure you help her revise.”
“Of course, of course,” we answered in chorus.
Doing homework is usually a drag for everyone involved. But food seems to excite her and we had a few laughs. The specific topic was buffets “自助餐”.
1. You can eat as much as you want to eat “想吃多少就可以吃多少”
“So,” I asked her, “what does that mean? What do you do at buffets?”
“If you want to eat… you shouldn’t eat too much?” I laughed and said that’s probably just in our family. We try to eat healthily and not excessively and often reminds her to do the same, especially when it comes to buffets.
2. Etc etc. “等等”
The passage had a list of foods and the sentence ended with etc etc “等等”. “Oh yeah, I know that,” she said confidently, “It means stop, wait.” What? I didn’t see a connection until I realised she was right and wait used the same characters.
3. Desserts “甜点”
Next, she wasn’t that sure what these words meant. When I listed a few examples like cakes and lollies, she piped up and said, “冰淇淋！” Then I remembered the tub of vanilla ice cream (our favourite) in the fridge. Should I mention it or keep it to myself? In the end I gave her a few spoons to hopefully sweeten the Chinese-learning experience.