My "Chinese" Spanish Family

I walk home from my 21:00 Interpretation class for dinner. I put in my key. I yank a little on the door so that I could turn it (a trick that I finally got the hang of). The door creaks. I prepare my Spanish brain. And a voice says:

“Ni hao!”

Nope, my parents didn’t fly all the way from China to surprise me in my host family’s place. It’s just my host dad Pepe, who is an avid learner of Chinese language and culture. On the first couple days when I arrived, he printed out a map of China to add to his exhibition of maps under the glass of a table. He wanted me to show him where I live in China and tried to pronounce it properly.

“Shenzhen,” I said.

“Sen-zzzzzen.” The whole family chanted.

From then on, I tried to teach them all a new Chinese phrase each day, and our daily greetings slowly shifted from “hola” “buenas noches” to “你好” and “晚安”, although Pepe pronounces “晚安” as “wan han” instead of “wan an”, but I don’t have the heart to correct him. It’s also an interesting phenomenon that I they hear an “h” in my pronunciation.

One day, they got raw chestnuts for lunch. I explained that “castaña” in English is made up of “chest” and “nuts”, which alludes to some interesting connotations - but anyway, they proceeded to ask me how to say it in Chinese.

“板栗.”  I said.

“Ban li,” Pepe said, in a perfect, almost-native Chinese accent.

I complimented my student’s rapid progress in Chinese-learning, and Pepe said, “Well, now I’m an advanced student now.”

My host sister Blanca once told me, “You’ve got to teach me how to use palillos - chopsticks.” The family has chopsticks, and I’m used to using chopsticks for everything - cooking, picking up food, up to drinking soup and picking up the toast from the toaster. So one night at dinner, Lola brought out palillos for all of us, and they actually got the hang of it really quickly!

I laughed and told them, “Now I have an inspiration for my next blog. It’s gonna be called ‘Mi Familia Española China’.” Which is the exact blog you’re reading right now!

I really enjoy these little cultural exchanges, because instead of being a one-way I-learn-about-Spanish-culture-and-language program, I could also share something about my own culture. It’s becoming indeed an intercultural communication, as if I’m putting into practice what I’m learning in the Intercultural translation classes!

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Stacia BIel