Speaking Chinese during Chinese New Year

In light of Chinese New Year, Better Chinese storybooks have been featured in storytimes held in the South San Francisco Public Libary and Menlo Park Public library, bookstores (Books Inc.), and schools such as Starr King Elementary School in San Francisco. During these storytimes, the children are incredibly eager to hear Chinese cultural stories as well as learn Chinese that is spoken during the holidays.  Little did they know, I was just as enthusiastic about learning how to speak the proper Chinese holiday sayings.  I quickly learned how to say "xin nian kui le" (Happy New Year) and "gong xi ni" (wishing you well). The children especially enjoyed hearing the "Gong Xi" song.  In fact, at Starr King, where there is a Mandarin Chinese immersion program, the students immediately broke out into the "Gong Xi" song as soon as the phrase "gong xi" was mentioned.  Unlike me, who only knew how to sing the "gong xi ni" chorus part off-key, the first-graders actually knew all the words and did not stop singing until they finished their rendition.  It was very cute and certainly humbling.  My admiration did not end there of course.  Seeing non-Chinese children understand and respond to their Chinese teacher in full Chinese sentences was utterly amazing and inspiring.  Hopefully by the time the next Chinese New Year rolls around, I will have many more Chinese phrases under my belt to say (and possibly sing!) proudly.


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