Character Building

Amid everything else going on in our lives, I’ve added a new hobby. I briefly mentioned it in my Portland post, but now I’m officially fascinated with the Chinese language.  Brian and I would both really like to become more familiar with the Chinese language, both written and spoken– this is an incredibly overwhelming task considering neither of us knows a lick of Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese). Because we don’t know what provinces we’ll be traveling to until we accept a referral, I’m hedging my bets and starting with Mandarin.

I found a great free app for my phone which allows me to practice correct character writing; every morning I review flashcards on my phone and continue to add more and more characters to my vocabulary. Additionally, one of my colleagues and friends at the museum is Chinese and speaks/writes both Mandarin and Cantonese (not to mention what she considers “Beijingese.”)  She’s been incredibly helpful with my stroke order and pronunciation, and I am feeling less and less awkward with all the different inflections needed for this beautiful language.

I can’t quite explain it, but I’m finding my comprehension growing quite naturally. So far, I find the characters quite logical graphically, and I’m starting to put the pronunciation with the character. Another friend at the museum suggested I check our our library’s language software, and I found out excitedly that our library offers Mango Languages for free for all patrons. Woohoo!

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more quips as I learn more, but I had a great moment this week. As you might guess, Brian and I are settling in on our top name choices for our child (most welfare institute names are given en masse– all children in one institution are given the same last name, and first names are given as a matter of practicality. As we’ve mentioned earlier, all children in the Waiting Child Program have been abandoned, with 99.9% having no identifying information, so no medical record, no birthday listed, no name). After practicing some of the characters at lunch one day, my friend at work stopped by and looked at my paper and was able to read what I had written, including our finalists for names.  It’s difficult to articulate, but to have a native speaker be able to read my very amatueur attempt at such a complex language really made my day.

I know learning a new language from scratch is no short-term goal, but I think we and our child will have a lifetime of learning together.




3 thoughts on “Character Building

  1. We know our child will be two years or younger, but more likely closer to a year/ year and a half. They will have heard Chinese, and we look forward to being to continue sharing some of that language with them.

    On a strictly practical note, I’d like to be able to recognize/read simple “travel” Chinese characters since we’ll be there for a month. Apparently, English is very common, especially where we’ll be staying, but during excursions to the welfare institution (which could end up in a pretty remote place), I’d love to be able to convey, though crudely, our gratefulness and thanks to the women caring for our child. Plus, I’ve found in previous travels that even attempting to communicate in the language of the country you’re visiting makes for much more pleasant experiences.

    I never thought I’d pick up the characters as fast as I have, but it’s really exciting and a lot of fun to learn!

  2. Oh, and perhaps most importantly (I forgot to mention this!), is that it’s pretty obvious that we’ll be a conspicuous family when traveling. Especially out of Guangzhou, the “personal bubble” is virtually non-existent, and we’ll need to be prepared for well-meaning local grandmas giving us advice (see my post “Better Grab a Sweater…”). Something that I’ve learned from a lot of adoptive families’ journals from their travels with their SN kids is that we’ll need to find a way to communicate the need for privacy and space especially if our child has any noticeable physical needs or impairments. Unfortunately, one of the many reasons why the Waiting Child Program exists is that many people don’t understand or are upset by young children with such conditions. I’d like to think that we won’t have this problem when we travel, but it will be nice to have a few words to politely shoo people away if our child is getting overwhelmed.

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