Communicating in any other country with a different language is difficult as you try to make yourself understood with gestures and a few words that you probably “butcher” when speaking. We have been lucky and when we have had some trouble communicating, there has been a Chinese person who speaks good English close by and has always been willing to help with those moments. Usually the charades are enough…
Well to put things into perspective I had an experience with a non-speaking English child a few times. A new child started at the school and speaks no Chinese and no English… his first day he needed help and the Chinese teacher did not understand him so he wandered off into the hall where he saw me and tried to ask me for help. He finally got across the one teacher’s name he knew and this was the EAL teacher… so problem solved!
This child must remember this, so he often waves and says hello to me (his only or one of few English words).
I was out on duty the other day and he came over to me and said “Hello, Hello?” and I said “Hi” back. That was not enough this time and the charades started with him pointing to something. Turns out another child had hit and scratched him… so as he communicated this with actions and “hello? hello?….. hello, HELLO!…. hel0h,helloh….” pointing to the other child, his face, his arm… I was saying as I started to guess and understand… “Oh he hit you? Oh look and scratched your face”. As I solved the communication puzzle he would nod feverishly. He was happy when I undrstood, and probably exhausted from the effort! I was able to talk to the other child and question them and sure enough he had done those things, so I sent him to time out.
As this whole thing unfolded I had to laugh…. of the few words we know in Chinese we always say… “Ni Hao, Ni Hao…” translation… hello, hello…. to get people’s attention. It sounds so silly… no wonder some of the locals are so frustrated with us. There are many Westerners in Shanghai, and to have us always saying Hello, Hello… to get their attention must be somewhat irritating and disrespectful.
One mom at school is French, so her English is limited and she knew no Chinese… so she struggled. She would have such difficultly getting around in taxis and finally she decided to get the address of where she was going and print it in Chinese (oh this work miracles!) and the time she does this her taxi driver couldn’t read…. she was crushed… now what? She managed. I think that was what made her decide to take Chinese lessons!
The assembly went well last week -the children performed and remembered everything. Other than a few technical difficulties (one mic stopped working, my co-teacher started texting and forgot to advance the Powerpoint …. ). The parents were happy and the children relieved it was over.
The Earthquake is the other big thing in the news. It happened on the Pacific side of Japan, so we were not affected. Thanks for everyone’s concerns and the phone calls to mom and dad to be sure we were OK. We have been watching the devastation on the news…. unbelievable! I have a Japanese boy in my class and his family was from the South, so they were all OK. I had a girl who returned to Japan in December and I am not sure where she was living, I am hoping her family is OK. There is no way of knowing…
Stay tuned for more…. and Ni Hao, Ni Hao