I was chatting with my wonderful hairdresser, B, earlier this week (so yes as you gathered I even managed to get a proper hair cut finally!! the first since the birth of Nina).
B was born and grew up in Sydney to a Shanghainese mother who left Shanghai as a young girl. B speaks Shanghainese (the dialect from Shanghai – more about dialects in China, see this blog) with her mother at home, but B has no knowlege of Mandarin nor is able to read/write any form of Chinese.
So I asked B if her mother has tried to teach her Mandarin/reading/writing. She said she went to a Chinese school on Saturdays when she just started school (in Australia, it is called Year 1 / 2, equivalent to the first/second year of Primary school I think), but she hated it.
– ‘It was just too hard’. B said. So after a few Saturdays she stopped going.
– ‘ Do you wish you had continued?’ I asked. I am curious.
– ‘I wish I did’. She didn’t hesitate to reply.
– ‘Did you mum try to convience you or force you to go?’ I asked.
– ‘I wish she did’. Another swift reply.
B.went to Shanghai for the first time – and the only time so far – two years ago. She was so excited before the trip that she’s finally able to speak Shanghainese for real. To her astonishment and disappointment, not so many people understood her – partly because not everyone in Shanghai speaks the local dialect and Mandarin is more popular (although in recent years there is a movement by the locals to re-instate Shanghainese as another official local language. I perhaps should write another blog entry about this, a very interesting movement), and partly because her Shanghainese is the one from almost half a century ago. The dialect has evolved and changed, like the city itself.
B. told me she wishes to learn some Mandarin and perhaps even one day go to Shanghai to work and live for a while.
It makes me ponder, if one day, Nina tells me ‘mum, it’s just too hard’, what should I do?