A sea change for the Gao family
By melinchina on Nov 23, 2006
My husband is Chinese, I'm American, and we met while we were exchange students in Japan so our first common language was Japanese. Really our first common language was a mash-up of Japanese, English and Chinese, combined with a couple of very bad accents. We were hilarious together - when we talked our Japanese friends would get this stunned look on their faces, like they were witnessing two people having a conversation in tongues.
When we moved to California in 1998 he needed to become fluent in English fast so we made English our new common language and it was tough! The conversations were suddenly very basic and slow and we both had to repeat ourselves all the time. But a little bit of pain paid off and now his English is fluent and natural. We're both very proud of it, in the same way that we're proud of the Pergo floor we installed in our living room. Except he did the floor by himself, but anyway you get the picture.
Then in 2005 we moved to Beijing and I needed to become fluent in Chinese fast. For some reason this time it's been even harder to change our common language. Somehow we always slipped back into English no matter how hard we tried to speak Chinese. But last weekend I got so frustrated with my slow progress that I resolved to speak only Chinese to my husband.
I didn't talk much for those first few days.
My husband didn't seem to notice and he continued to use English most of the time. Finally after a week I asked if he'd noticed that I was only speaking Chinese to him and he said no, but God love him, he did say he thought my Chinese was improving.
And thus we have accomplished a sea change in the Gao household. Only Chinese at home from here on out.
If you have a tip for learning foreign languages while living in a foreign country please leave a comment. Thanks in advance for your help!