Yes sir! I know that. But I call it Leon language because that’s what I’m used to calling it. I really want to learn so I can surprise him. I’m learning Italian and Russian, too.
That’s quite a few. Well, it’s always good to have ambition. What would you like to know?
[he breaks into a wide grin] Well, I want to know how to say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ and I sort of remember how to say ‘i love you’ but it’s kinda hard to pronounce. And I wanna know how to say ‘cuddle’ and ‘it’s naptime’ and ‘i want a hug’. Can you teach me all of that, sir?
Well, ‘hello’ first then! Normally we say ‘Nǐ hǎo!’ which literally means ‘you good.’ -chuckles a bit- It sounds silly in English. —But anyway, ‘Nǐ hǎo!’ is a pretty all purpose greeting. ‘Good morning’ is ‘Zǎoshang hǎo!’ —Am I going too fast? Try saying them.
…oh! That’s not—that’s not Leon’s language. That’s your language, sir, I want to learn the one that Laoshee speaks. [Peter rocks back and forth on his heels, blinking up at the other] That’s….that’s Mandarin, right? I wanted to learn the other one.
-rubs one of his temples- Aiyah, Cantonese is so much more harsh. ‘Nǐ hǎo’ turns into ‘Nei hóu.’ And ‘Zǎoshang hǎo’ turns into ‘Zóusoeng hóu.’ —And that’s just normal Cantonese. I butcher Hong Kong speech.
Nei hooh? [Peter wrinkles his nose as he tries to pronouce it] Uhm, uhm, nei houuh. Nei hoouh, nei hoouh! And…zou-song hou. Zousong hou. I can learn that! I can! I can try very hard. [he nods his head, grinning wider now] Nei hooouh, Mister Yao!
-laughs- You’re getting it. You’ll definitely get it, I just know it! —And I love you… “Wo ai ni” in Mandarin becomes something like “Uo oi nei.” -scratches the back of his neck- Aiyah, I sound like a seal when I speak Cantonese.
Uu-ooh oi nay. [he nods, repeating] Uu-ohh oi nay. Uu-ooh oi nay. Uu-ooh…oi nay. Ah…xie xie, Mister Yao. [he beams] I don’t know how to say that in Leon language but I do know how to say that in Mandarin!