My Chinese reading skills have improve a lot and I started reading Chinese articles every once in awhile. While it takes a lot longer to read an article, I am still very happy when I finish reading something that is wonderfully written. Being able to read in Chinese brings me to another world of journalism and writing that is very different from English articles. Living in Hong Kong, one can easily get by without the ability to read or speak Chinese. However, as I slowly start recognizing more Chinese characters and sentences, my eyes are opened to another world of writing that is truly captivating. When writing in English, sentences tend to be longer and more words are needed to explain and describe an emotion or an event. In Chinese writing, a simple short sentence could easily translate the emotions and complexity of an issue. That is one thing about Chinese that I am always in awe of. Even when we are to fill out applications forms, under the “description section, we are allowed to write 50 words in English, but the limit for Chinese is capped at 20.
I am currently at the stage where I am fluent in Cantonese, I can write a bit of Chinese, and I happily announced I can officially read a full article in Chinese without too much glitches. I am proud to say my Mandarin is improving (slowly) and I like to think it is better than Cantonese speaking counterparts in HK. I should thank-you this “gwai lo”–white guy I met a few years ago when I was visiting China. I was sitting at the hotel lobby waiting for my grandpa before lunch, there happened to be a Caucasian man siting at the couch next to me. My grandpa wanted to me ask him in English how he’s enjoying his stay. I was about to turn to the gentleman when he started speaking on the phone in fluent perfect mandarin. That is when it hits me–if he can speak in perfect Mandarin, why can’t I? After 3 years of learning, my Mandarin still has lots to desire, but I’ll take classes….
To end this blog, I need to point out actually, it is really not ALL THAT SPECIAL a Caucasian can speak Mandarin. I mean, I can speak fluent English, so why aren’t the Caucasians in Canada in awe of my language skills? Why does it take a white man to speak another language for others to be amazed at? Yep, so I now usually don’t raise an eyebrow when I see Caucasians in Hong Kong speaking in Mandarin on the phone. Eventually, I might even get to a point where I expect foreigners to speak to me in Mandarin or Cantonese…yep…, my expectations have been raised. However, local Cantonese speakers in HK should be ashamed of themselves for not even trying to learn the dialect. Oh, one more little pet peeves, I hate it when foreigners stop people on the street and talk loudly and slowly “CAN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?”. It is so condescending! If the person doesn’t know English, you just made him feel bad. If he can speak English, you would look so stupid!
I remember watching an episode on the Amazing Race and the teams were in some Asian countries and one of the team was like “oh my gosh, why can’t people in Vietnam speak English? Weren’t they colonized by Britain? Maybe they are not colonized enough”. Oh My Gawd! I was beyond pissed off and annoyed by their ethnocentrism! OK, ending this post below I turn this into a full fledge war with myself…