I used to have a decent vocabulary in French, English, Mandarin and Spanish. I used to argue about politics, the economy or the state of the world.
These days, I can get by with ten sentences.
“慢慢吃” (Màn man chī) and “慢慢走” (Màn man zǒu), “Eat slowly” and “go slow” in Mandarin
Translation: When Mark eats a banana, he stuffs as much of it as he can into his mouth. I don’t know why. It’s not like we are stealing his food—it’s usually the other way around. And Mark doesn’t walk, he runs. So we use these two sentences in Mandarin to instill Chinese wisdom. So far, we have a 0.01% success rate.
“Mark, this wasn’t a question. I was just being polite.”
Translation: When I say “Mark, come this way, please” he tends to think it was merely a suggestion and then runs in the opposite direction. If I say “Mark, let’s go to your room and change your diaper” he understands me just fine but runs to the kitchen. Now, if I ask him to come to the kitchen, he will try to climb the stairs to go to his room. You get the point—this kid is a rebel. That, or he has a terrible sense of direction.
“He is tired, right? Come on, he has to be tired, no?”
Translation: We are tired. We want him to sleep. We spent the past few hours entertaining him. Unfortunately, we succeeded and Mark shows no sign of giving us a well-deserved break. It’s like being called for an “encore” over and over again.
“All the toys in the box! Mark… all the toys. In. The. Box. No, you don’t need to empty it first.”
Translation: Do you know what I hate more than a glass of flat Coke, a cup of cold coffee or a maxed-out credit card? Stepping or sitting on a block of Duplo. It hurts like hell. So I taught Mark to put his toys away in his room and in the living room. I’m actually pretty proud of myself, he usually happily complies as long as I repeat the above-mentioned sentence two or three times. I should try it on Feng—I’m tired of him leaving candy papers everywhere.
“Mark! If you throw this down the stairs I am not getting up to go… oh fuck, never mind.”
Translation: It’s apparently hilarious to throw things down the stairs—a ball, a toy, the remote… I wouldn’t mind it if he would retrieve said stuff himself but unfortunately, we haven’t reached this stage yet. So Mark throws things and then expects me to get up and go get them. On the plus side, it’s a good workout. On the downside, I don’t need the extra workout. I like my wobbly bits.
“Yes, thank you for showing me. It’s very pretty. Can we move on now?”
Translation: Mark loves exploring the world and often stops to check out the things he notices—it goes from a fun window display to a discarded Tim Hortons cup. There is no point in trying to make him move until I acknowledge his finding. I found the above-mentioned sentence works pretty well, although it does feel weird to call a shiny garbage can “pretty”.
“What’s the weather like tomorrow?”
Translation: In Canada, the weather can make or break your day. We had (and we are still having) a very long and harsh winter and obviously when snow is forecast, we have to plan accordingly. So we check the Weather Channel every day and hope for the best. Or go into denial mode when we hear the word “snow”.
“I’m just going to check my emails.”
Translation: Feng and I are both freelancing and most of our business is done by email. We need to stay connected throughout the day and whenever we have a minute, we go check on the latest emergency. It’s never “just” checking—it often translates into “okay, who is taking Mark for the next two hours?”
“I’ll get started on it as soon as I get the final version.”
Translation: I don’t actually say it but I type this sentence a lot when dealing with clients. Not-yet-final versions of documents are a translator’s worst nightmare. You don’t want to complete the work and then have to make endless rounds of changes because the CEO/the accountant/Cindy from marketing/Bob from communication decided to modify the doc.
“Okay, so where do you want to go?”
Translation: It’s still too cold to be outside much and we are running out of places to take Mark for a walk. We’ve been to all the shopping malls, including the ones on the Quebec side. We can’t go to indoor playgrounds too often, it’s a pricey treat. And playgroups are often held early in the morning, when we have to check our emails and get some work done. Hopefully, one day, Mark will tell us where he wants to go. Meanwhile… the mall, again?!