Tadpole has a Chinese classmate called Evelyne. Evelyne didn’t start the moyenne section in September with the rest of the class. Her name was on the register from day one, but she only arrived shortly after the Christmas holidays.
Every schoolday, when I stumble down the hill to drop off Tadpole, jeans and a jumper hastily thrown on over my silk nuisette, bed hair crying out for a comb, we are greeted by the same sorry sight. Evelyne, crying inconsolably in the arms of Tadpole’s teacher, her eyes tightly closed as though she wants to make the world, or herself, disappear.
“Why is Evelyne so sad?” I ask Tadpole.
“Well,” Tadpole replies. “La Maîtresse says that she was nice in China and she doesn’t want to visit Paris. She doesn’t know how to speak French. She speaks always Chinese and she doesn’t understand us.”
“Perhaps you could try saying some words to her in Chinese,” I suggest. “It might make her feel better if she sees you are being friendly…”
Tadpole has been attending a Chinese class after school once a week since September. It’s a very informal affair, where she seems to eat more Chinese sweets than anything else, but that’s fine by me, because it’s just supposed to be a fun activity, and a way of helping her to understand the culture of many of the children in her class. Aside from being able to say “hello”, “goodbye” or “thank you”, she doesn’t seem to have retained a great deal, so far. I’m grateful for those few words, however, when we take a seat in one of our favourite Belleville haunts and Tadpole mounts a charm offensive on our unsuspecting Chinese waiter. Speedy, attentive service is guaranteed once Tadpole has wrapped the staff around her little finger.
Her repertoire of songs in Mandarin, on the other hand, is pretty impressive, even if she can be somewhat vague about the meaning of what she is singing. In the Tadpolecast which follows, there are three songs, and here is what I was able to glean:
1) “It talks about two tigers. One of the tigers has only one eye. The other has no tail. Or maybe it’s one tiger with one eye and no tail. I can’t remember, mummy.”
2) “It’s about a pair of ducks. The fisherman is fishing for them.” (No doubt they end up crispy? Yum.)
3) The first bit means “I dance, I dance” and the second bit means “I sing, I sing.”