Living in Denial A personal blog of a girl named Survon.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Which lingo do you "bla bla bla"?

Something stimulated me to write this after reading this. This issue has always been around but I had never pay attention to it till I am here with all these people speaking their own mother-tongue. Only now I realize, I can never speak my 'mother-tongue' as fluent as them.

My mother-tongue is Cantonese...erm...or maybe not...Well, at least that's what I thought initially. The more I mix with people from different countries here, the more I got confused about myself.

It is hard enough to explain I am a Chinese from Malaysia, cause people can hardly differentiate Malay, Malaysian and Chinese Malaysian. It is even harder to explain my master of language.

Since I was born, I was communicating in Cantonese with my family. My parents' initial plan was to teach us (their children) all the 'available' languages - my mom speaks Mandarin, my dad speaks English, we speak Cantonese with all other people in Ipoh and Malay will be taught in the school. That's what I call 'Perfect Plan'. Sounds easy, as my mom was Chinese teacher and my dad was English teacher. But in reality, it didn't work out that smooth. My mom which tried to speak Mandarin for a short period of time (before I went for primary school) could at least implant some Mandarin skills in us and my dad was not strict enough to force us to use English. End up, I could at least understand and speak basic Mandarin and English was learnt in school like many other kids.

I was quite proud when I was in Secondary school cause you could hardly find people that could understand Mandarin in National Schools (in my era). At least I could proudly claim that "I can read a bit of Chinese words" (thanks to the development of Chinese music industry). Till I went to college and mixed around with more Chinese Educated students and people from places that doesn't speak Cantonese, I started to feel a bit 'banana'. Yet, I could still claim, "I can speak a bit of Mandarin". Now that I'm here, with a lot of real Chinese around, NO, sorry, "I CANNOT understand Mandarin".

Still remember back in school time, we were not allowed to speak our dialect in school compound. The only legal languages allowed were English and Malay. It didn't really help much as we were always against the rules. Cantonese was still our primary language among Chinese. The rules only apply when there were other races, teachers or prefects existing in the group. For this reason, I thought I was a master in Cantonese.

Since I'm here, I realize there are a lot of things I didn't know from the beginning. When I say I didn't know, that means I can't tell in words in ANY languages that I know. While everyone is so proud being a Chinese Malaysian for having language skills of at least 3 languages. I, actually realize I have limited vocabulary in all the languages. In school, Malay was the main medium, English was my everyday written and reading language, Cantonese was my everyday spoken language, Mandarin was my karaoke language. Heck, I can never express myself in ONE single language.

I could still remember there was a game with my friends to compete who could speak Cantonese without a single English or Malay words. Gosh! If I ask a Hungarian to speak purely Hungarian, that's piece of cake. For us who speaks in 60% Cantonese, 20% English, 10% Malay and 10% other dialects, in ONE complete sentence, this will need months of training.

Mother-tongue, depends on how you define it, should be the first language you speak. This way, yes, Cantonese is my mother-tongue. To many other people, mother-tongue should be a language where you can use and express yourself freely without any bound of vocabulary. For this, no, I don't have any mother-tongue.

For some people, language is a highly honoured literature thingy that needs really deep thoughts to learn and know how to appreciate it. In Malaysia, generally, language is just a bridge or a way to convey your message across to another person. Thus, what we speak everyday is a kind of mixture language compiled from words in all the languages you know that your creative brain could think of which could best represent your thoughts. Hence, you will never put in effort to find the correct word of the language you are suppose to speak. Therefore, a lot of people do not have a broad vocabulary in a single language, including myself.

As a conclussion.....there's no conclussion, as I still couldn't make up my mind...Do I have a mother-tongue?

posted by Survon @ 10:00 PM,