“Bobble, ching,” is one of the favorite phrases of Little Mary Harcone, 2, of Sandridge Arkansas.
“‘Bobble,’ is her cute little way of saying ‘bottle,’ says Mary’s mother, Alice Harcone, 29.
“And ‘ching’ is the Chinese word for ‘please.’ She mixes up both languages all the time.”
Alice Harcone and her husband, Phil, have difficulty understanding their daughter. Alice only knows a few Chinese words, such as Chow Mein, Won Ton Soup, Egg Roll, and Boo Loo Op.
Phil knows absolutely no Chinese, and he finds it even more difficult to understand his baby than his wife does.
Yet, little Mary is constantly throwing out full Chinese phrases, often mixed with English.
“She’s such a happy baby,” says Alice. “She’s a joy to our home, and I don’t want to make her feel bad about her speech — but I have to say something if I’m going to understand her.”
Foreign language specialist Allen B. Myerstron, of the University of West Anglica, in England, says that the child learned Chinese in the womb.
Alice Harcone worked almost every evening shift, as well as many lunches, during the two years before her baby was born. Most of the other workers in the restaurant spoke Chinese all around her, and she ate Chinese food nearly every day.
“It’s a gift,” says Dr. Myerstron. “And it might as well be enjoyed. Such a talent might provide her with a very high paying job one day. As she grows older, she will learn to speak one language at a time.”
“It was hard to deal with at first,” says Alice, who is now staying home with her baby instead of working. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Every mother wants her child to be normal, and it takes some adjustment when you find out yours isn’t. Of course, it’s been harder on Phil than it has been on me.”
“It still blows my mind when I hear those words come out of that kid’s mouth,” Phil says. “I just keep thinking, over and over, why us? Why us?”