Friday, February 8, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year to all. If you're Chinese, Jewish and living in the West, you have three chances per year for a fresh new start. Welcome to the Year of the Rat! Mozart was a Rat, Churchill was a Rat; I'm a Rat who married a Rooster and we're the proud parents of a team of Horses (what - no Pigs??). Here's the latest saga of our barnyard menagerie:

Last night we got together with the kids and our neighbors, whose daughter is from Nanjing and is Harry's best friend at school. Naturally we went out for a great Chinese meal. When the fortune cookies came (note: this is a purely American tradition; there are no fortune cookies in China) we read them all out loud with the usual guffaws. I joked as usual that my fortune was "Learn Chinese", when suddenly there was a small but significant sound at my elbow. I looked down to see that Xiao-Ling was pronouncing the Chinese word on the back of my fortune, which I had not yet said out loud.

My daughter can't read English yet, but I handicapped her anyway by covering the English transliteration of the word so she could only see the Chinese characters, and she pronounced it again.

To make sure that I was not dreaming, I asked to see somebody else's fortune paper and, again without pronouncing the word on the back, showed Xiao-Ling only the character. She read this one as well. It was "Deng" (Wait). I repeated it after her. She corrected my inflection. I repeated it again and she said, "Yesss."

That's it, then. Our daughter is her own red thread between her birthplace and her growing-up place. We had heard from Sabrina that our daughter knew a few characters but apparently they've really sunk in. Now we have a new goal: to teach her English without costing her any Mandarin. After all, a Messiah has to be able to communicate with everybody. L'Shanah Tovah!