Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thank You Dora

The smartly dressed business woman sitting in the facing seat on the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong spoke at some length to Li Na in Mandarin. "For a two year old, your daughter has an impressive vocabulary" she told us. Jane, the Holt representative in Nanning, made a similar observation four days earlier when Li Na excitedly identified a backhoe as we drove past a construction site.

For the first few weeks, Li Na carried on an unending conversation with herself, often lapsing into song. Was she speaking Chinese, baby talk or some combination of the two? Neither of us is in a position to know.

Our language skills are limited at best. A bit of rudimentary French for Mei Ling and I received a passing grade in Latin I only on the condition that I not enroll in Latin II. Other than a few cliche terms such "as ni hao ma" we speak not a word of Mandarin.

And therein lies the dilemma. For the moment, Li Na is speaking just a bit of both English and Mandarin. Her absolute favorite thing in the world is the very bilingual Dora the explorer. Not the English to Spanish Dora that most kids watch. Thanks to a company known as Beauty Culture Comm in Guangzhou, Dora and her friends have been transformed into native Mandarin speakers, with the occasional English words or phrases. Evey time she sees her image, Li Na cries out for "Dora." She sits in rapt attention, watching the same episodes over and over again. Kai-lan is interesting for about two minutes, but Dora is endlessly fascinating.

So do we build on this momentary bilingualism? We would be of no help, but there are a number of Mandarin / English preschools and toddler programs in San Francisco. Although Cantonese stills regains supreme here, Mandarin is on the ascension.

We have scheduled a meeting with a Mandarin immersion preschool and we are considering a bilingual summer play camp. If that works out, when she is a bit older there is always the possibility of the Chinese American School, and then...

Other than the fact that she seems to have a solid foundation upon which to build, there is no other compelling reason to push any language other than English. Needless to say we are a bit conflicted. Fortunately, we have time and options. And for now, Li Na has Dora.

More of the social butterfly


The Social Butterfly

For the first two weeks back in San Francisco life was one party after another for Li Na. Thanks to our many friends, and her new "big sister" Elana, Li Na partied like a rock star.