Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yes, please, I'll have the...

My DW is a language person and I'm not much of one, I must admit. I don't have an ear for language and really have a difficult time with other languages. I took many years of Junior High and High School French, but as I don't "use it" I've "lost it".

DW teaches English as a second language and as a result of this has picked up various bits and pieces of other languages. Sagely, she has decided that our children should learn a second language. This second language happens to be Chinese as we have a local charter school that offers classes on the weekend and at a summer day-camp environment nearby. DS started at the summer camp last year and loved it - both he and DD went to the weekend program at the school over fall, winter and spring and will be going to the upcoming summer camp.

As part of their language lessons, they've been learning to count and the names of various foods in Chinese. To put this to the test, the teacher had class for the students at a local Chinese restaurant. They would order from a set list of items in Chinese and pay for them. DW and I went with them not knowing exactly what the situation would be. Would we sit with the children or not? Would we be asked to order in Chinese as well? It turns out that the teacher had brought some traditional foods to share with the children and had arranged to order some more traditional dishes from the kitchen that would reflect the upcoming Duanwu Festival. This event is also known as the Dragon Boat Festival and will be coming up on the 16th of June. The teacher would spend this time with the children and DW and I could go and enjoy a meal on our own.

At the table I mentioned that I was concerned about being asked to order in my (nearly non-existant) Chinese. I can say "hello" and "thank you" and that's about it other than 小白猫 (Xiao bi mao - small white cat) We had a good laugh over the fact that that certainly wouldn't be an appropriate order.

After we finished our meal, we were offered tastes of what was served to the children including scallion pancakes, steamed dumplings and zongzi - the steamed rice dumpling filled with red beans that was wrapped in a bamboo leaf. The zongzi is one of the dishes that is associated with the Duanwu festival.

When the wait staff noticed that we were paying attention to the Chinese lesson going on at the table near us, they asked if we were the parents of any of the children. We responded that we were and they produced a menu that we hadn't seen before. The one that we were offered when we arrived was the "Americanized" menu while the one that they gave us later had true Chinese dishes that were not on the first menu. We were told that if we requested the menu, it would be provided. It was an interesting contrast - there was much more fish on the menu including squid and octopus and cuttlefish. There were some dishes that I definitely want to try on our next trip there!

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