Saturday, October 10, 2015

Help! I Can't Communicate with My Mandarin-Speaking Grandpa

It's not only people who travel or move to other countries that have to be very intentional if they ever want to cross-cultural barriers enough to communicate. The same challenges face our ABC (American-born Chinese) friends and other children of immigrants. Language gaps are exacerbated by cultural ones and interpersonal discomfort... coming from the feeling that you OUGHT to be able to connect and already have lots of common ground.

I enjoyed a recent story on Global Voices, originally from PRI public radio, about one young woman who made a decision to find out what her grandfather had to say.
" all the years of spending time with my beloved grandpa, YeYe — him driving me to tennis lessons, teaching me how to make dumplings, and taking me to meals upon meals after school at McDonalds (his go-to spread is the Big Mac with Coke, mine the dollar menu chicken sandwich) — we’ve had never had a real conversation.

"YeYe is from Taiwan and only speaks Mandarin Chinese. My parents are from Taiwan too, but I was born and raised in the US. Though I understand a tiny bit of Chinese, I pretty much only speak English. To call our conversations simple would be a gross understatement. It’s basically: hello, how are you, are you hungry, on repeat.

"I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize all this, but I decided to finally try to have my first in-depth conversation with YeYe.."
Listen to the story about Yowei's attempts to change this. 

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