Friday, September 29, 2006

Too Incoherent to Stick to One Topic

While I was growing up, my parents spoke Mandarin Chinese at home (except for technical subjects, like math or computer science, which were discussed in English), and I have a reasonable working grasp of the knowledge. I'm not a particularly sophisticated speaker, but I can get by conversationally.

SwingDaddy took Mandarin classes in college, so we occasionally run into funny instances where I'll be able to translate a word for him, but when he repeats it and asks what "tone" it is, I have to answer that I have no idea. I didn't study the language, I just heard it as a kid and know how to say it.

One of the delightful side benefits of having a Chinese nanny is that my Mandarin has improved a great deal. When I'm working at home, I'll join Q and Nanny J for lunch, and we talk about how the kiddo is doing, weekend plans, and all sorts of things. On Mondays, I have to work a little harder to pull up the words, but by Friday, I can chatter away.

Yesterday at the office, I attended a marketing campaign summit with participants who'd flown in from around the world. As I was leaving the conference room, one of the Asia/Pac team leads followed me out. She introduced herself, and said she had a question for me. I looked up at the tallest Chinese woman I had ever met and waited.

"Do you speak Mandarin?" she asked. "We need a product specialist to give presentations in several cities."

A couple of thoughts zipped through my head. First, I've always used a translator when presenting to Chinese audiences because while I can chat and make conversation in Mandarin, I can't smooth-talk or produce the technical vocabulary. The medium-level knowledge that I have helps lots during Q&A though, since by the time a question is translated in one direction and the answer is translated back, it usually has nothing to do with the original intent of the question. I can understand the question and respond, with a little help from the translator.

Next, I thought: My Chinese has improved a lot lately. Maybe I could do it and visit cool cities in Asia. I sorted through the Mandarin vocabulary words I've added since becoming a mom.

Allergy. Innoculation. Registration. Diaper. Watermelon. Strawberries. Corn.

Hmmmm, not much that's useful in telephony marketing from that set of words. I'd probably better turn down the speaking opportunity and offer to train their local team on the material instead.

Non Sequitur warning.

Am I the only petite person to be frustrated with conference room chairs? There's usually a lever on one side of the chair, and if you depress the lever while sitting on the chair, it sinks down. When you reach a comfortable height, you release the lever.

The problem is that with some chairs, I'm not heavy enough to make the chair move. If I'm in a smaller meeting or among understanding pals, I'll have one of them sit on my chair to fix it for me. Yesterday, I was in a room of fifty people and not sitting close to anyone I knew, so I just sat with my legs dangling until they were numb.

I did have one really gleeful moment over my increased pregnancy weight two years ago – I could adjust my own conference room chairs!

Second Non Sequitur warning.

SwingDaddy, Q and I made a family trip to the grocery store tonight and had a pleasant time hanging out afterwards. It was a nice change from a previous evening this week when Q unleashed a full-out, teary, snotty, bawlfest over an unknown reason. Who knew that one small child could produce so much mucus.

This morning, I accompanied Nanny J and him to gymnastics class, and he did great! He's gotten over his wariness of Coach Roark (at least for today), and allowed the coach to help him through some somersaults on the crash pad and some flips on the bar. The age range is 18 months to 3 years, so he's younger than most of the other kids in the class and can't follow instructions as well, but he sure loves to be upside down.

At the end of each class, the children go up to the coach and receive a stamp on each hand. It seems to be the standard way to end any kids' activity these days. When did this start? Is it a sort of ritual to help them mentally make the transition between the end of one activity and the beginning of another? It seems to be pretty effective.

And one last note. When I was at the gas station today, there was a sign on each pump. "Carwash Out of Order."

I like to think that someone got even more confused than me, and they're figuring out how to make it more user-friendly.


Suzanne said...

My daughter gets her hand stamped after gymnastics, too -- I don't get the appeal, but she really looks forward to it at the end of the class.

tt said...

He looks very handsome with full mouth of teeth now (almost).izmghhpn

Jenny said...

You can speak mandarin chinese. You are sooo my hero.

Waya said...

Chinese is the one language I'd love to take when the kids are off to college. I told my hubbie that if you go to any foreign country, and not know the least you can definitely find a Chinese restaurant and (if you did know Chinese) converse. How cool would that be?

Your son is very adorable by the way!!

Kimberly said...

I have the same problem with the chairs. And really, a grown woman in a great suit bouncing on a confernece room chair desperately trying to get it to budge is soooo professional, eh?

My big furniture related pregnancy moment was when they brought in a special table and chair for me into the university classroom because they were afraid I'd get stuck in the attached desk/chair combo. Cuz that's not at all embarrassing.

Lady M said...

Kimberly - I'm so glad to hear that there is someone else out there who knows this problem!

Waya - Your point about being able to eat in any country - so true! We've gotten some good Chinese meals in Central Europe when we'd gotten tired of the local food and not knowing how/what to order.

Jenny - My folks get the credit for this one.

tt- Thanks! :)

Suzanne - Bonus - Stamps don't take space in the toybox like the little "prizes" that kids get at the doctor's office.

fourthbreakfast said...

I have the same problem with chairs. I also have problems with some of the heavy doors to the labs and gates around campus. Usually, I depress the crashbar and use my foot to push the door open. If I'm on the wrong side of the hinge, I have to fit my foot in the crack and push backwards. Gotta be careful there: there is sometimes an Indiana Jones style squashing effect.