Pages

3.04.2009

Say What?

I just read a post from the blog French Kiss about being bi/multi-lingual...it got me thinking....

It's always been a bit frustrating not being able to speak to both sets of grandparents. I am 3rd-generation Chinese American (generation status explained below). Although that status is a little weird since my paternal great-grandparents are buried here and my mom is 1.5 generation Asian American. Anyhoo...back to the bi/multilingual thing...

My paternal grandmother used to babysit us all the time while our parents were at work. We picked up some Toishan (pronouced "toy-san", a dialect of Chinese and more exact, a sub-dialect of Cantonese)...but our conversations usually were a mix of Toishan and English...usually our end being all English. My grandmother was pretty funny since she always claimed to not know any English, yet would get herself all around DC on public transportation and would always be the first one to laugh at any jokes (told in English) at the family table. What a turkey.

My maternal grandparents also speak a sub-dialect of Cantonese called Jungsan. BUT...just to make it confusing...my grandfather immigrated to Central America as a teenager and my mom (eldest of 9) lived in Honduras till high school...making my mom's side of the family trilingual...Spanish, Chinese, and English. Actually, my grandparents also know straight Hong Kong Cantonese...so, quadrilingual? The whole fam (well, when speaking to my grandparents) hold conversations that are a mix of Spanish, Chinese, and English...and no, not separate sentences...I mean those three languages are included in every single sentence. But, my mom is still more fluent in English and Spanish.

And the other thing...my parents met at Georgetown while both were majoring in linguistics...Mandarin (Chinese) to be exact. Yeaaaaaaaah. Then my paternal grandmother makes my mom learn Toishan.

Sooooo...for the count:

*Daddy-O: English, Toishan, & Mandarin
*Mama Dukes: English, Spanish, Jungsan, Toishan, & Mandarin
*The Lee Girls: English...and a little Spanish and a little hodge-podge of Toishan, Jungsan, and Cantonese...and by hodge-podge, I mean like 5-10 words of each dialect.
*My kids...English and the 5-10 words of each Chinese dialect I can pass down to them....oops, I did forget that we are teaching them Spanish.

Sad.

Oooh...which leads me to a teaching lesson...ahhhhhhhh, back to the old days.

Generation Status: pretty easy...start with the first generation of immigrants and they are the 1st generation ____ Americans. It gets a bit tricky when the kids immigrate with the parents...they are then considered the "1.5 generation"....like my mama.

Nationality: Oooh...my favorite. Where your citizenship belongs to is what determines your nationality. So, when I get the funny looks in response of my answer of "American"...I mean, American. Which leads to "Where are you REALLY from?" To which I answer DC or MD. Which then usually leads to "No, where are your parents from?" Can you tell I'm a pro at this and hear this a LOT? I usually answer for my dad's birthplace (Washington, D.C.) since my mom's (Honduras) is really going to lead to a long conversation in which I usually don't have to time (or at that point, the patience) to explain. Which always leads me to my next question for them "Oh, you mean my ETHNICITY?"...to which I usually receive a confused look of "Uhhh, ok...sure?" Another case of perpetual foreigner.

Ethnicity: Where you can trace your peeps to...in my case China...thus making my ethnicity Chinese. My hubby's is Chinese & Filipino. My kids...1/4 Filipino and 3/4 Chinese.

Race: Social construct of the grouping of people based on physical characteristics. Historically, race (being a social construct) was/is used to discriminate against specific groups of people through legislation.

Perpetual Foreigner: A stereotype of Asian Americans of seeing them as the exotic other and never being fully capable of acculterating into mainstream society. i.e. the question mentioned above in nationality "No, where are you really from?" Another example, when someone asks my race/ethnicity/nationality and I ask him/her the same...he/she is usually pretty surprised I have asked him/her.

Since I'm still going on this...

Sex: Male or Female...whatever chromosomes you were born with...XY or XX...except in special cases.

Gender: Man or Woman...another social construct of masculinity and feminity.

And with that...Sean's standing duty and it's time for my weekly shower.

Did I just say weekly?

I may be exaggerating...or am I? ;o) Mu-hahahahaha.

3 comments:

Liza said...

Loved this! I know exactly how you feel. When I have to explain my ethnic background, I just say Cuban, only because I was raised by my mom and her family. She's Cuban; born and raised. And Noel, was born there, as well. Actually, it's Cuban, Colombian and Greek. I love the expression on people's faces when they get the whole explanation. "...huh...oohh." = )

Hope you're staying warm!

ronee said...

we are so ment to be best friends!
we have the same conversations!
i just know different languages!
xoxo
ronee

Tanya said...

Awwwww...I *heart* you ladies! It's so hard to have this kind of convo with other mil wives since there are so few wives of color in the sub community...let alone for the officer wives!! Hope you both are nice & toasty in FL. We're in the high 70s today and dropping down to the 40s tomorrow. Redunkulous I tell you.