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So I bought this illustrative b-day card


shootingstar
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for my mother's 85th birthday.  I gave up on the English poems, words..in b-day cards of past years for mother.  I settled for a card that a kid would nearly give to mom:  it was a bird chirping happily on cover.  And inside, was mother bird hugging with baby bird in nest or vice versa.  A birthday hug from baby bird to momma bird.

My mother doesn't read nor write English. No, she doesn't understand much English.  

And yes, in such families there can be profound misunderstanding but also relies heavily on trust and a few words.   

Whenever people talk about preservation of mother tongue/language, there is a practical, even mental health reason for this: more harmonious family relationships and well-being.

 

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My parents refused to speak English in the house as they wanted us to learn Dutch.  They could speak English but chose not to.  

That started changing when my wife was around more as she would speak Dutch to me but English to her.  Then kids came and she pretty much gave up on Dutch unless she was specifically asking me to do something, then it was usually in Dutch.

It was kinda funny as my mom would ask me to run the trash out or such and my kids would go ohhh dads in trouble! Probably because when she got mad she rambled on in Dutch.

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38 minutes ago, ChrisL said:

My parents refused to speak English in the house as they wanted us to learn Dutch.  They could speak English but chose not to.  

That started changing when my wife was around more as she would speak Dutch to me but English to her.  Then kids came and she pretty much gave up on Dutch unless she was specifically asking me to do something, then it was usually in Dutch.

It was kinda funny as my mom would ask me to run the trash out or such and my kids would go ohhh dads in trouble! Probably because when she got mad she rambled on in Dutch.

Thankfully, my parents never made us take Chinese language classes on weekend. In a small Ontario city  100 km. west of Toronto, where Asians (well, the few Chinese dominated the "Asian" demographic fragment), one could not expect quality teaching at all. However, decades later in Toronto, my half-Chinese eldest niece and nephew/her brother, did take a few Chinese language classes in Toronto ...my sister had them do this.

Mother tried teaching us how to write a few characters.  But gave up, given her exhaustion and distraction of other household chores.

Hardest thing for my siblings (since I live in a different province) is trying to explain difficult stuff like probate, power of attorney, etc. to my mother, also the types of medical invasive tests she must take for closer diagnosis that she is resisting now. That requires Chinese vocabulary way beyond kitchen/food/going to the bathroom/daily chores language. ?

When my father was alive, he became and was the bilingual go between /interpreter/dispute mediator between her and us/kids. Some families, as you know, both parents don't even understand English at all.  So we consider ourselves, very lucky that father learned English on his own as an adult.

 I remember explaining over the phone to doctor's receptionist about a younger sibling's sickness, on behalf for my mother. I was 12 years old.  Father was at work in another city.

 

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16 minutes ago, KrAzY said:

My great grandma only wanted to speak German.. it was fun because I got to learn a little, but also made her sound like she was yelling at me when she was just saying she loved me. 

:)  Ah,  I'm certain a lot of people think Chinese-speaking people are "ruder" because they sound so loud, sound so aggressive, and yappy.  In comparison the Japanese sounds so discreet, civilized to non-Japanese..  For the latter, it might be shutting out non-Japanese in a more covert way.  (so says a close Chinese-Canadian friend who lived and worked in Japan for 18 months.  She could never get to truly understand how some of her Japanese colleagues truly felt/thought. There was this cultural veil. It's probably felt between Japanese and other Asian descent folks more acutely than between Japanese and whites.)

Then you would do really well in a big Chinese cavernous restaurant with predominant Chinese clientele.....it's just everyone is very expressive and more frank/direct. :)  Join in on the din /cacophony.

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3 minutes ago, shootingstar said:

:)  Ah,  I'm certain a lot of people think Chinese-speaking people are "ruder" because they sound so loud, sound so aggressive, and yappy.  In comparison the Japanese sounds so discreet, civilized to non-Japanese..  For the latter, it might be shutting out non-Japanese in a more covert way.  (so says a close Chinese-Canadian friend who lived and worked in Japan for 18 months.  She could never get to truly understand how some of her Japanese colleagues truly felt/thought. There was this cultural veil. It's probably felt between Japanese and other Asian descent folks more acutely than between Japanese and whites.)

Then you would do really well in a big Chinese cavernous restaurant with predominant Chinese clientele.....it's just everyone is very expressive and more frank/direct. :)  Join in on the din /cacophony.

That's cool . Last time I was at a Chinese restaurant the older lady sat in the corner shucking peas and would scream something at me every so often.. she was fun :)

i would scream something back in German. She smiled and thought it was funny.

the owner came out and said something to her.. she threw a pea at him and he went running.. it was like a game to her.

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32 minutes ago, KrAzY said:

That's cool . Last time I was at a Chinese restaurant the older lady sat in the corner shucking peas and would scream something at me every so often.. she was fun :)

i would scream something back in German. She smiled and thought it was funny.

the owner came out and said something to her.. she threw a pea at him and he went running.. it was like a game to her.

Dutch & German are similar but Dutch is spoken less harsh & gutteral.  I get the comment about your Oma yelling at you when she was just saying she loved you.  

It all sounds like yelling to me.

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14 minutes ago, ChrisL said:

Dutch & German are similar but Dutch is spoken less harsh & gutteral.  I get the comment about your Oma yelling at you when she was just saying she loved you.  

It all sounds like yelling to me.

Dearie's mom was quite different. She had a soft, kind voice.  Dearie inherited that temperament from his mother.  He also speaks a soft German.  In southern Germany, they speak a softer German. But then, they view the northern Germans, Bavarians, as more rough.

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Just now, shootingstar said:

Dearie's mom was quite different. She had a soft, kind voice.  Dearie inherited that temperament from his mother.  He also speaks a soft German.  In southern Germany, they speak a softer German. But then, they view the northern Germans, Bavarians, as more rough.

True, there are numerous dialects in both Dutch & German.  The dielect of south Holland “Limburg” is very hard for me to understand and sounds a lot like German.

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1 hour ago, ChrisL said:

My parents refused to speak English in the house as they wanted us to learn Dutch.  They could speak English but chose not to.  

That started changing when my wife was around more as she would speak Dutch to me but English to her.  Then kids came and she pretty much gave up on Dutch unless she was specifically asking me to do something, then it was usually in Dutch.

It was kinda funny as my mom would ask me to run the trash out or such and my kids would go ohhh dads in trouble! Probably because when she got mad she rambled on in Dutch.

My mother is the youngest of nine children and my older aunts and uncles could all speak Polish - at least broken Polish. Their father was from Warsaw and their maternal grandparents were from Western Poland.  But my number-9 mother and the two sisters born 7th, and 8th, all of whom were very close to each other all their lives, did NOT speak Polish.  I asked them why and they said, "We didn't even speak it in the house because we were Americans. We mixed with American kids of all nationalities and did not want to be thought of as Polish.  We were so sick of all the Polish in the house that we didn't even speak it there."

Still, my mother used to make say my prayers to "Bogie" ("Bozhie," God) and if my room was a mess she'd yell, "Porządek" ("Bezhundek" in my grandparents dialect: Get things in order).  A few words and phrases filtered through!  In a recent phone call with a cousin in Philadelphia, recovering from a knee problem, she said her house had become a mess from enforced neglect and asked, "Did your mother ever say, 'Bezhundek!'? In my mind I can hear mine yelling it at me." I can still hear my late mother's voice yelling it clear as if she's in the room. We laughed.

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4 minutes ago, MickinMD said:

My mother is the youngest of nine children and my older aunts and uncles could all speak Polish - at least broken Polish. Their father was from Warsaw and their maternal grandparents were from Western Poland.  But my number-9 mother and the two sisters born 7th, and 8th, all of whom were very close to each other all their lives, did NOT speak Polish.  I asked them why and they said, "We didn't even speak it in the house because we were Americans. We mixed with American kids of all nationalities and did not want to be thought of as Polish.  We were so sick of all the Polish in the house that we didn't even speak it there."

Still, my mother used to make say my prayers to "Bogie" ("Bozhie," God) and if my room was a mess she'd yell, "Porządek" ("Bezhundek" in my grandparents dialect: Get things in order).  A few words and phrases filtered through!  In a recent phone call with a cousin in Philadelphia, recovering from a knee problem, she said her house had become a mess from enforced neglect and asked, "Did your mother ever say, 'Bezhundek!'? In my mind I can hear mine yelling it at me." I can still hear my late mother's voice yelling it clear as if she's in the room. We laughed.

That’s funny in that I’m #9 of nine and 7, 8 & 9 were all born in the states but I’m the only one who can speak Dutch and 7 & 8 really don’t understand it well. 

The 3 oldest were 12, 11 & 10 when they immigrated and speak, read & write Dutch. I can only speak & understand it.

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I never got tired of hearing Chinese. After all, it became a kind of muzak while my nose was buried in a book at home. ? I only wished sometimes I understood what parents would say to one another. One thing for certain my parents discussed a lot to reach certain key decisions..in Chinese.  It was in an amiable, exploratory and respectful way which I associate a marriage should be like... lots of enjoyable conversation and decision-making by equals. Sometimes it's just not necessary for children to understand every word...for certain things. 

All my siblings and self, generally have same level of bad Chinese. However lst 2 eldest, myself and next sister, began life before kindergarten only speaking and understanding Chinese. So we ended up in ESL classes after school for lst 2-3 yrs. #3 sibling began school with some English and more Chinese.  By the time English weasled into home, sibs #4-6, they knew a lot of English and bad Chinese before kindergarten.

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52 minutes ago, sheep_herder said:

Not sure how much variation there is in the Chinese language, but when we traveled by train to a university south of Beijing, the Beijing folks did not understand the language in that town.

So much variation that Cantonese and Mandarin speakers cannot understand each other's conversation at all.  I personally knew a Chinese married couple from Taiwan who spoke English with one another, because she was fluent in Cantonese while he in Mandarin.  Let's see, she was doing her MA and he was doing his PhD.  So no matter how smart you are.....

I wished happy birthday in English to my mother by phone today.  I don't know what it is in Chinese.  My mother hasn't bothered to teach us what it is.  I think it's spirit of the words which she would view this English phrase..as a form of Canadian "slang" that's happy.  There are certain phrases immigrants just adopt the English and don't bother with Chinese.  Another would be "okay".

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