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'Littlest Interpreters' Grow Up Fast, but the Benefits Can Be Many

March 09, 1990

My family came to this country from Hong Kong in 1975 when I was 11. No one of the four in the family spoke English. With a younger brother who has chronic asthma and a mother who has a congenital heart problem, I can claim to have made the rounds to all the major hospitals in L.A., translating all sorts of symptoms from Chinese to English.

On one trip to the gynecologist's office for my mother's annual exam, the doctor, male, asked, "How often do you and your husband have sexual intercourse?" I thought, "Yeah, I'm going to ask my mom that?" I looked at my mom, and she's waiting to find out what this next question was, and I said to the doctor, "They don't." The doctor looked at me--age 13 and blushing in tomato red--and went on to an easier question.

Children such as Adriana, Claudia, Faustino and Iran are often exposed to many situations adults handle by themselves. From my own experience, this exposure makes growing up fast. And I can't say it's bad. The little interpreters get a firsthand look at what the adult world is about.

LILY Y. LEE, Los Angeles

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