At the check-out of the local supermarket yesterday, Nina saw a toddler wondering off from his mum who was busy paying. Nina went up to the toddler, looked at him, while pointing at his mum, and said ‘mummy, there’.
That single sentence, an incomplete sentence, gave me immense joy and satisfaction. Why?
1) Nina really gets that different people speak different language, and learnt that English is the language of the society she lives in now. So she didn’t speak Mandarin nor French to that kid, but consciously chose English, which is for the moment her weakest language.
2) she’s now comfortable enough in her English to INITIATE a conversation. Such a huge difference from when she hide herself and refused to talk to ANYONE beside her parents. It’s almost like she’s becoming a different child. That sentence (‘mummy, there’) was not complete and far from being perfect, but it conveyed the message perfectly. That’s what it counts in language – to communicate and deliver a message! The refinement of the language can, and will, come later.
3) Nina has a good heart that she wanted to make sure the toddler stay close to his mummy. Kindness and willingness to help is a quality that I value enormously and wish to instil in Nina.
I had a big smile on my face at that supermarket checkout. I was very proud of my daughter who is, at 3 years 2 months old, able to sort out three languages, learning every single one of them (including English which we don’t speak at home at all, but she is picking up mainly from her pre-school since less than 2 months ago), and comfortable enough to communicate via them.
I have to add that I was proud of myself too – it’s at that moment that I realized all our efforts of raising a trilingual child IS paying off. It gave me confidence and courage to keep going. Like what I have always believed, and as part of my lessons from our round-the-world trip: Things always work out in the end, with due efforts.
During the lunch with my lovely friend P recently, she mentioned her experience as a TCK. It reminds me that I should dedicate at least one post on TCK.
That’s the definition from Dr. Ruth Van Reken, who coined the term TCK which has become a movement since 1960s. See more from the website: http://www.tckworld.com
Lately I have come across this popular article ’31 Signs You’re A Third Culture Kid’ here. I bookmarked it for Nina’s future reference. Some personal favourites are:
8. You have a love-hate relationship with the question “Where are you from?”
17. You get nervous whenever a form needs you to enter a “permanent address.”
21. You don’t call it “home.” You call it “passport country.” (a note for Nina, she would call ‘passport countries’)
My stand-in dentist that I saw 2 weeks ago (as my dentist was on holiday) is an Australian with Thai mother and Greek father. She said she loves the confusion on the face of people when she explaines the origin of her name (first name Thai-sounding and last name Greek-sounding). It’s almost like my accent, a weird mixture of Chinese, French, and (now slightly) Australian accents. If I have to give it a name, it’s called ‘messed-up’. But I have always preferred slightly unconventional things anyway, so that works for me quite ok.
Nina is no doubt a TCK – a textbook TCK by definition. While sometimes I consider myself as a global citizen of some sort and can certainly relate to some TCK symptoms, I have become one by choice. Yet Nina was born as TCK. I wonder, when she grows up, would she wish that she would have been given the choice of not being a TCK?
I found this list hilariously informative – 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World.
Below is just an example of the maps (Map of Europe Showing Literal Chinese Translations for Country Names), which is probably one of the most intellectually challenging ones to understand – as an English and Chinese bilingual, I have to think hard to translate the names back to Chinese, sometimes in vein, to make sense. But still, it’s a refreshing perspective.
(Map of Europe Showing Literal Chinese Translations for Country Names)
These maps explained quite a lot of things, in such a visually easy way. I love maps. I could stare at maps/street directories/globe forever and let my imagination wonder, which sometimes leads to some disastrous results (hint hint something is coming up :)).
Nevertheless, to tie this list back to my blog, I would have loved to see one more map: countries where there are more multilinguals than monolinguals. When you think about it, there are many countries (including China, and a friend suggested Liechtenstein) where naturally people grow up with more than one language. And I would love to know how many.
Strictly speaking, my first language is not even Mandarin Chinese. It’s Fenghua dialect, which sounds distinctly different from Mandarin, and uses very often different ‘logic’ in structuring the sentences (I use the word ‘logic’ instead of ‘grammar’ on purpose because there is no written form of Fenghua dialect nor formal grammar). Mandarin Chinese is a language I learnt when I started school (at the age of six). Even then, some older teachers used the dialect to teach as their Mandarin is not far from a disaster.
In Australia there are approximately 240 languages spoken and 16% of the population speak a language other than English at home – that means among 6 friends of ours, there is at least one who speaks a non-English language at home! I’m sure in Sydney that percentage is much higher than that.
If there is the 41st map of countries where there are more multilinguals than monolinguals indicated by the colour of green, I wouldn’t be surprised if it will turn out to be a quite green world. Can anyone validate this?!