Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Dinner party or just a communal table?

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 10, 2008

I was recently at a dinner hosted by an accquaintance of mine.  She’s a university student and is the president of one of the school’s clubs.  Most of the guests at her dinner party, which was held at one of the local restaurants, were members of said club, with the exception of myself and another guest.  The club was somewhat diverse:  Half were Asian (mostly immigrant or foreign (visa) students), one was South Asian, one black guest and the club president and VP are white. 

There was something about the dinner that bothered me.  It wasn’t because the executive wasn’t “ethnic,” but how people interacted with each other.  WIth the exception of myself, the other Asian guests only talked with each other, even after the host tried to get them to join in.  The dinner felt more like dining at a counter or communal table – it felt like two separate groups.  Some may suggest that language was an issue, but they seemed to speak English well enough to join an organization that was English-speaking only.  Discussion topics might have been an issue, since we spent some time talking about movies, music, etc…but it didn’t dominate the entire meal. 

There was a lot of self-segregation when I was in school in the 90s and early 2000s, but generally, people didn’t join clubs if they were only going to talk amongst themselves.  Of course, I’ve only met these people once.  They might not be like that outside of that dinner situation (or accept the post-dinner mall excursion invite) – after all, there were two outsiders (myself and another person) at the party.  However, that wasn’t what it looked like to me as an observer.  And it just bugged.

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, English, ESL, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Hong Kong Mallrat voice vs. “White” Valley Girl/Uptalk

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 21, 2008

The HK Mallrat voice is that “young” or “baby” voice that many Chinese (or perhaps more accurately, Cantonese) girls/women speak with. I don’t really know the origins of HK Mallrat, but I think it came around the same time as the Valley Girl…some time in the 1980s. I’ve seen old HK movies (pre mid-1980s) and none of the women spoke that way, not even teens, so you can’t say that Cantonese speaking women “naturally” have younger-sounding voices. This is usually paired with what some people I know call “puppy dog eyes.” Usually, these women are middle class or wealthy.

Most of us know what White Valley Girl/Uptalk is. For those of you who don’t, it’s when, like, a girl, talks kinda like this?? And she’s, like, not exactly too confident in herself?? Total exaggeration, but whatevs. The pattern/dialect/whatever you want to call it has been made fun of in movies like Clueless and the TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Hilary is totallllly an Uptalker!). So yes, demographically (from a socio-economic POV), the Uptalker and HK Mallrat are the same.

The sad part is that both styles are common in women over university age. And some girls just don’t know how or when to turn it off. I think it’s kind of okay if you talk like that with friends, but at work? I don’t think so. Sure, most Uptalkers turn off their “likes” but the Uptalk continues. Don’t these women worry that they sound like they’re in their early 20s or even younger? Especially if they look young? How on earth can they be taken seriously? Many people already assume that a young looking person is the intern, not the full time, fully paid employee. I thought most young looking people in their twenties and thirties didn’t want to be treated like a kid?

I honestly don’t know which one is more annoying. A 30 year old (or older) talking like she’s a child is just as dumb as a 30 year old saying “like” and “whatever.” In both cases, she can attract the wrong type of partner.  In both cases, it’s difficult for her to move up, career-wise.

Posted in ABC, Asian, assimilation, banana, BBC, Cantonese, CBC, Chinese Canadian, culture, English, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Learned Another Language as a Tot, English at School – ESL or Not?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 15, 2008

I didn’t speak English until I started school.  English is technically not my first language.  Cantonese is.  According to the Statistics Canada definition, Cantonese is my mother tongue, as it is defined as “the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual at the time of the census.”  I certainly still understand Cantonese.  My parents and grandparents speak Canto to me every day.  I usually reply in English to my parents, but in Cantonese to my grandparents. Gung Gung and Poh Poh do not speak much English.  Neither does my paternal grandmother.  English is my most comfortable language.  It’s the language I use before anything else.  I think in English.  However, Statscan does not have a category for people like me.  And there are plenty of people like me.  Many second generation Canadians, regardless of culture are like me.  We may not have said anything yet, but I’m pretty sure we don’t want to be grouped in the same  category as people who learned English much later in life.  We don’t sound like English is our second (or third, fourth, etc) language.  Our accents are indistinguishable from people whose families have been in English Canada for generations.  And at the same time, we’d be lying if we said that English was our first language.  It’s tough when we have to check off a box!

I think it’s time that they actually have a box for people in this situation.  I think it’s a great way to find out how many Canadians UNDERSTAND their ancestral language, but do not speak it or default to it.

Posted in Chinese Canadian, culture, default language, English, ethnicity, language, minorities, Mother Tongue | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »