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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Tongue Crisis

I have been asked on several occasions on

A) what is my mother tongue
B) Do i think in mandarin or in english

I have always thought my mother tongue is cantonese since my family converse in Cantonese. However, i have been teased many times by my husband and other hong kongers on my version of Cantonese, and the use of words and my slang. Take last week as an example, i said Who is the film director. The "Who is"  sounds "Swedish" to them. It's the intonation. That is Cantonese

Then comes mandarin. I can speak and write fluently. Yet when i thought about the possibility teaching mandarin in a language college here in UK, i hesitated. Only six years of mandarin in primary school has its limitation (obviously). In addition, i am not as brilliant as those chinese from mainland china. Albert said he enjoys his mandarin class with SOAS very much and he prefers his current teacher ( from the North with its porsh accent) compared to his previous teacher ( from the South China). I can speak but i don't sound like chinese from mainland china. To me, i speak broken mandarin.

Then comes English, that's even worst. I work in england, surrounded by British, yet my tongue is so glued to the way i pronounce my words that i obviously still sound like a Malaysian, or maybe less Malaysian than i used to. Still in terms of culture, i am definitely far off. Not only British culture, i sometimes wonder i belong to this generation at all. Yesterday was a perfect example. I met up with my ex-colleagues, one Irish, one New Zealander and one Norwegian. I was lost in the conversationhalf the time. I don't know many pop idols nowadays. I do not have a single clur most of the names of singers, actress, or actors. I can't even recall the last time i walked into a cinema. Even if i watch any movies, i won't remember the names of the actor/actresses. I don't listen to pop songs, so names of singers are not on my list either. My Irish friend had her birthday party last month in a club and i didn't go. I hate the smell of cigarette, hate shouting or speaking into other people's ears in the club, i don't dance and i don't like the music. Need i say more?  They also talked about TV programmes like american idols etc... i seldom even switch on my TV! My english vocabulary is limited. Maybe i should switch to English course at SOAS instead of my korean. I told Albert this morning that i will have to watch TV every night, to relean what is British culture.

I don't feel confident speaking cantonese with Hong konger, not 100% confident speaking mandarin to my chinese friends, and not confident speaking to my British friends either. I am having a tongue crisis ( vs identity crisis)!



4 comments:

  1. you are who you are.....proud of yourself being a malaysian, you can speak a lot more languages than other countries ppl - BM, Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Hokkien bla bla bla......who cares if it's not the pure pure language as long as others understand you right? We can even mix languages seamlessly....haha.......

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree with little voices,

    You are who you are!!You know once I was expected to be someone from South East Asia and can speak many languages like you guys.

    A lot of people make language/culture special, you bring them together.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rachel and Little voices: Thank you for your reminder and encouragement.. i sometimes tend to see from the other end.. forgeting that the beautiful picture is actually straight to my face !

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rachel and Little voices: Thank you for your reminder and encouragement.. i sometimes tend to see from the other end.. forgeting that the beautiful picture is actually straight to my face !

    ReplyDelete

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