The Language Barrier - or - “I think our new parents
may be stupid. Nice, but stupid.”
Over the last couple of days, several people have commented on
the strength of Ellie and Sam’s Chinese – “For children so young
their Chinese is excellent!” After hearing our meager attempts
at “Ni Hao” and “Shie Shie,” they have been notably less
impressed with our Chinese skills – “For adults so old, your
Chinese is terrible!” (I knew I should have opted for the
Rosetta Stone course instead of relying on “Ni Hao Kailan” for
my Chinese language training… although I do feel incredibly well
prepared if a friendly tiger with balloons or a monkey with
flowers shows up later today.)
We have been impressed with how much English they know. (Embarrassingly,
our Chinese children know far more English than their American
parents know Chinese.)
This gives our children a decided advantage over us in the
First, it allows them to talk about us while we are in the room
without us knowing what they are saying. While my Kaelin Chinese
cannot say for sure, I really think Ellie said, “If you turn
your head like this, the tall one will give you anything you
want. I cite the cookie in my left hand and the Barbie in my
right as evidence.”
Second, it gives them the power of translation…especially Ellie.
Her English seems stronger than Sammy’s, so we frequently ask
her to translate when Sammy needs something.
This was especially important…although somewhat awkward… when
she translated “Nyo Nyo” for us. We NOW know that “Nyo Nyo”
means “Pee Pee” or “Potty,” but we did not know this when Sammy
first began to repeat it incessantly on Monday afternoon. When
we asked Ellie for help, she walked over and pulled down his
pants for him… in a public park on a busy street…where he
proceeded to “Nyo Nyo” right on the ground. (NOTE to self: We
need to quickly learn the translation for “Poo Poo” before
leaving the building again.)
But perhaps the greatest translation moment came earlier today.
Sammy began to repeat “Ching Sha” over and over again. He tried
to be polite about it, walking over and repeating it slowly for
his new parents who obviously have some kind of intellectual
delay. “Ching… Sha…” he repeated over and over… becoming slower
and louder with each repeat.
We obviously wanted to help, but we just stared at him with the
blank but friendly faces that accurately reflected our status as
This is when I decided to ask Ellie. “Ellie, what does Ching Sha
mean?” Ellie looked up from her episode of “Happy Goat” and
politely turned to respond to me. “Ching Sha,” she said
matter-of-factly… as if that were going to solve my problem.
I repeated my request. “Ellie, what is Ching Sha? Can you show
me?” Still sweetly and politely, she said… in a higher octave
and more slowly… “Ching. Sha. Ching Sha.” Then turned back to
This was clearly not getting us anywhere, but I tried one more
time. “Ellie, Can you show me the Ching Sha?”
At this point, something seemed to click. She nodded her head
and stood up. She then walked very purposefully over to where I
She grabbed the side of my face, and directly into my ear she
yelled, “CHING SHA!!!”
I don’t want to make her seem mean in this response. Even her
yell had a sweetness to it. In retrospect, it reminded me of
when I would visit my Gramma Cissell in the hospital. After she
failed to hear me on the first several times I asked a question,
I would get right up next to her and yell it into her ear.
At that moment, I think Ellie’s smile was the recognition that
her parents were not dumb… they were just deaf.
At that moment, Anne and I literally fell onto the floor in
laughter. We laughed HARD for several minutes… and eventually
both Sam and Ellie joined us on the floor. They did not know
what was so funny to their mentally challenged, but it seemed
like fun to roll on the floor together.
When we eventually stopped laughing and wiped away the tears,
Ellie walked me by hand to the closet and pointed to the Chinese
biscuits that she and Sammy had been eating earlier. “Ching Sha”
she said sweetly.
Got it. “Ching Sha” = Chinese biscuits.
Now I have to go find out about “poop”…
the papers on that desk, Ellie and Sam OFFICIALLY became Jutts!
Two cute kids... and a noticeably missing letter "I" in the sign
above. (See yesterday for details.)
Ellie likes to comb Anne's hair. I cannot be sure, but I
think she asked in Chinese, "Are you using a novel
polymer-silicone blend in your shampoo? It's wonderful!"
I love my mom (and red date yogurt)!
I ALSO like red date yogurt... and my mom, too!
Can I assume that the pre-school curriculum you've selected for
me will include calculus?