Tuesday, February 18, 2014


                                Sal says "heck yeah!" But mama says, "búyào". 

One of the most popular questions I get about living over here is whether we've learned the language. In short, the answer is a BIG.FAT.NO. Mandarin is difficult with all of the different tones (which I cannot hear, nor can I replicate). I give props to my friends who take courses and actually practice during day to day interactions, even if they get laughed at by the locals. 

We know a select few words and phrases. Both Nick and I know how to navigate a taxi with directions of straight, left, right, stop, here, there....and we both know our numbers. Knowing your numbers is key to not getting ripped off. One of the first phrases I was taught (and use almost daily) was búyào.

Búyào means "don't want", or "want not" in direct translation.

I use it in many situations. For example, someone goes to touch my kids faces or hands--I swat their hand away with a strong búyào to make my point. Do.Not.Touch.My.Kids. I also use it at the market, when my vendor asks if I need spinach this week, or when she tries to push a newly available vegetable my way. A quick sweet búyào does the trick. 

Well, turns out, someone has been listening and picking up on the uses of búyào, because Sal now answers us with búyào when he doesn't want/ or doesn't want to do something. His most popular use of the word is at dinner when we sit him in his chair, and he decides he doesn't want to eat what we've placed in front of him. He'll feverishly yell "all done, all done, all done...búyào búyào búyào!" to make his point. He also uses it when our ayi tries to get him to put pants on (Sal prefers a pants optional household) and I'll hear a búyào! from his room, followed by the chatter of my ayi, presumably warning him that he's going to get sick and die if he gets cold. Sal chatters back at her, but I don't know what he is saying. I don't think it's English or Mandarin. But, who knows? Maybe he has picked up more than we know. 

It's pretty awesome to have evidence of what a sponge he is for learning. It's also a reminder for us (me especially) to watch the swear words I tend to let fly.

Last thing I want is my kid sounding like a sailor's spawn. Major búyào. 

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