Friday, July 15, 2011

Language Lessons, Life Lessons, and One Unfortunate Pig

I knew, based on research, that XiXi would lose his ability to speak Mandarin.  I knew that on a logical, cognitive level, but on a deeper level, I had a hard time really believing it.  Or at least believing that it would happen as quickly as researchers said it would, 12 weeks.  Twelve weeks to completely lose the ability to speak your native tongue?  It seemed impossible.  Yet, here we are, just past the 12 week mark, and suddenly XiXi can't seem to speak Mandarin.   Or if he can, he refuses to do so.

We were at a Chinese restaurant about a week ago and the waitress was so excited to speak with him.  She chattered away and XiXi just stared at the ground.  She gave me a quizzical look like, didn't you say he was raised in China?  Then she tried some very basic questions, asked loudly and slowly.  "What is your name?" and "How old are you?"  He stared silently at the ground.  Finally I whispered in his ear, "San sway" (three years old).  He still said nothing, so I pushed the issue. "XiXi, say 'san sway'."  Finally, barely audibly, he mumbled "san sway" and then buried his head on my shoulder.  Just a few days ago we ran into "Ayi", our friend who's spoken with XiXi several times since he came home, and it was the same situation.  He wouldn't say a word in Mandarin, not so much as a Nihao.  When she changed the conversation to English, he responded.

Not surprisingly, with the end of Mandarin, his English has exploded.  He speaks in full sentences, using pronouns, different tenses, adjectives, and prepositions.  I find it truly miraculous.  As we were leaving the library yesterday, XiXi said, "I want to go home and lay on the couch with my library books."  That's one heck of a long sentence for someone who was only introduced to a language 3 months ago.  I've loved being able to communicate with him on a deeper level.  We joke together, tell stories, and just really converse.  We're also learning more and more about his life in China.  Reading a book about a farm, he pointed to the pig and pantomimed cutting its throat and said, "In China, cut pig on the head and then eat the pig.  Oh, yummy."  To get the full effect, you had to see the slaughter acted out by our 4 year-old.  I asked him who killed the pig and he said that China Baba killed the pig.  "XiXi no do it," he said.  "Baba say 'stand back.'" Thank you, China Baba for keeping our boy in an observer role in the slaughter!

XiXi saw a picture of himself in China a few days ago and his face became very serious and he said, "No like it in China."  For some reason that bothered me and I said,  "No, XiXi.  You liked China."  He emphatically shook his head.  "No," he said.  "No like it in China.  Like it here.  Want to stay here."

I think in his young mind, he has to separate the two lives.  I absolutely believe that he felt love in China; I just don't think he can mentally be in both places.  If he liked it there, he'd be missing it here, and he doesn't want that sadness.    He has cannonballed into this new life at the deep end and he's refusing to sink.  He's swimming for all he's worth and he's making incredible progress.  We feel privileged to be on the journey with him.  We adore this boy.


Kim and Greg said...

That's interesting! Ben never responded well to Mandarin, even in China. He seems afraid of it. I never anticipated that reaction. I do think it's separate worlds to them....they've boxed us in separate places. Ben almost seems terrified if someone speaks Manadarin. He waves them away and hides behind me. :(

It's great XiXi can relay stories of China to you!! I would LOVE to know something - anything - about Ben's life. We know absolutely nothing. Cherish his memories - bizarre as they may be!!! :) He's such a cutie!!!

val said...

Wow that is quite a post....sad but also good that you can communicate so well with him! He sounds like he is extremely smart so hopefully one day he'll be able to embrace both the life he has now & the life in China. It is great he is willing to share stories with you...that says a lot about his trust in you.

Vicki said...

We too have found the same thing with all of our adoptions. Emma was only 9 months old, but Meilynn was over two and should have had some language, but no we never heard a thing from her, then Lily who was 6 and even in China, we could not tell what she understood, she would never answer, and now Jilliana also three. She was referring to herself in pictures using her Chinese name, but now after 5 months she has stopped. I loved hearing her say her name.

The Stiffs said...

Hi there. We'll be traveling hopefully soon for our three year old boy. There are a couple of questions I would love to ask you, mostly communication and what to take. Our son wears split pants in every picture. I'm worried about the potty visits. Feel free to email me if you have time rbstiffatmedotcom


Kelly said...

Great post Eileen. I bet it is amazing to witness what things he is going through emotionally to make himself accept his loss. He is one lucky boy to be your son!

Angie said...

I admit I almost cried that you made him say his age. I remember when we were in China and got our Joseph, he was almost 2.5, The first 3 days around the island shop keepers would speak to him and he would respond. One day he even sang a little song we were told. But on day 4 he suddenly just like XiXi would not look at anyone who spoke to him in Mandarin. If they said hi or goodbye in English he would give them a big smile and wave. The only words we ever heard in Mandarin again were the words for car, tree and flower. He would just get so excited when he saw a car that he would shout it out. While his words were cute it was not really the words but that we were seeing his personality and the things he loved coming through.
The Lord put on our hearts that we had chosen Joseph to be our son. But he had no choice in the matter, that day he chose us!!!
Our social worker said that is what you hope for although she had never seen it so quickly in one that young.
Also the Lord gave us the scriptures for our kids Jeremiah 32:39-41 the final verse says He will assuredly plant them in this land with all His heart and soul.
I felt a real conviction one day when asked if my then two were Chinese and I said yes. However they are ethnically Chinese they are now American citizens! The Lord planted them in our family here in this land "America" So now when asked if they are Chinese I always say they are from China but they are Americans now.
I am so glad XiXi has chosen you and your family.
blessings Angie

Kelley Brown said...

Eileen!! I have so much to write you that it will never fit in a blog comment. :) But first of all, how precious are your children!!!! And it's amazing that we both have kiddos from Nanning and Kunming! I feel like we could talk for hours. The comment about David and what he said to his girlfriend about being just normal...that cracked me up. I can totally see him saying that!! :)

Thank you for continually offering words of encouragement, humor, insight, and wisdom. I smile everytime I receive a comment from you. Hope you have all had a wonderful weekend!!