Teaching and translating

Tonight Lillian was speaking Mandarin. She obviously enjoys it. At one point she was teaching me some phrases. She’d slowly but fluidly pronounce some exotic phrase and wait for me to repeat it, correcting me when I made some major blunder. I’d ask her what the phrase meant, and she’d offer a translation – e.g. “pretty butterfly”. Interestingly, translating – providing a phrase in one language which “means the same thing as” a phrase in another language – seemed effortless and unremarkable to her. Other times she’ll proudly announce “I did it!” when she’s achieved some minor thing, such as climbing up onto the bench. But translating from one language to another, which is really a far more spectacular feat – no animals can do it, for example – passes without notice.

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