November 02, 2006

Destined to lose

Posted by Xun  |  1 comment

Emma has been to her preschool for 4 months. The first 2 months, she was the little quiet observing smiling Chinese girl. She kept her silence, soaking in all the English conversations, words, phrases. She hardly uttered a word. Then in the third mouth, she started talking in English, everyone was amazed that the little mute girl now became the talkative bubbly bee.

Her English is quite good now. At home, she used a mixed language of Chinese and English. I version one day soon she will use exclusively English, and my parents will be so at loss as to communicating with their little girl. Or maybe not. I hope not. My friend's son Leo now is a fluent English speaker and uses English exclusively even at home with their Chinese speaking parents. Though he is quick in switch to Chinese when talking to a Chinese stranger.

In languages spoken, there maybe quite some hope for them to be bilingual. But to be literate in both languages? That is an uphill battle. Yes, it is possible to send Emma to a Chinese school, but it can be done only on weekends. Who can afford to turn the back to the mainstream culture, the culture you breathe day in and day out? Yes, it is possible to get books in Chinese to learn read and write, but how difficult it is? How committed can I be? I flinch at the thought of it. Not to say the scarcity of suitable resources.

Language aside, the culture is destined to loss in the second generation, except some traces and pieces, some cultural souvenirs we still have them hold on to. But American culture is the water we drink and air we breathe now. Emma is soaked in everything American, she is well on her way to be conversant with American children's classics, she loves Winnie the pooh, the three billy goats, she sings many Mother Goose songs. But she hardly know anything about Chinese classic poems and those icons and symbols we favored as a child. During the eight months she stayed in China, she could recite Chinese poems and rhythms like a brilliant little scholar. But now, all that memories are replaced by her running talks about teletubbies, froggies, squirrels. (Ha, in china, it would be hard to find anybody who see squirrels so often like they see sparrows.) Emma even likes western cuisine better, she loved cheese the moment she tasted, her favorite food is pasta (it keeps changing though). She often seems to lack appetite for the food I cook for her (my mom did a better job, but she had the advantage being in China.)

And people. We are the minority and we, like Emma, is Americanized a bit more everyday, but we adults are and will always be in essence stubbornly, incorrigibly Chinese. However for a young one, for Emma, for an ABC (America-born-Chinese), she will be much more American than Chinese. Who can compete with her classmates, her friends, the majority of people (Americans) she deals with everyday?

The only thing will definitely remain is her Chinese looks, which may be lost in her next generation.

I do not really mind. We lost and changed old culture anyway. Think of the once glorious old rotten culture of China.

I do mind, however, if Emma lost her Chinese language and understanding and therefore lost one invaluable opportunity to work in/for China (when everyone is vying for), if Emma lost her uniqueness and became only one of many vain and empty Americans.

Thursday, November 02, 2006
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Ben said...

This is something we struggled with when we came to Canada. But then we were already a third/fourth generation Chinese in Malaysia already and is beginning to be not regarded as chinese. The good thing in Malaysia is that Chinese language and customs is still prevalent -- but in Canada, it's lesser.

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