Monday, 20 February 2012

Why did my mum never let us speak in English at home

Ever since I was a little girl my mother never let us speak in English at home, insisting that my brother and I only ever speak to her in Cantonese.  Even so, she expected us to be very good with our studies and lay down the law that we should always get A grades in our school reports.  How can she expect such a thing when she can't even help to explain any of our homework for us.

My mother never learnt to speak English, her schooling only terminated when she was about 12 years as her parents could not afford to keep sending her.  I am sure that if she was able to flourish academically then she probably would have been very successful.

Luckily for me and my brother we were good academically and our love for reading helped us a long way when we got to the important stages of our schooling.  We would always go to the library and bring home maximum number of books we were allowed on our cards.

And luckily for my mother I loved all the Chinese television and music that she put on, whereas my brother wasn't all that bothered.  I would always sit with her to watch everything, all the old TVB classics such as the Legend of the Condor Hero, and its sequel firmly remain my favourites.

Growing up having to translate everything in the shops and the post that came through the door became a real chore though.  Even at the tender age of about 10 she expected me to be able to translate a business letter or hospital letter but my Chinese was still limited to the simple everyday conversational terms.  How was I supposed to be able to translate business terminology and medical jargon when even I did not know what they were in English?

Teaching my mum English was a waste of time, either because she was genuinely incapable of learning it or she thought it unnecessary as I was there to interpret everything.

Despite this, I am glad of the way that I was brought up because I continue to love my roots and my language and I have tried to learn to read and write on my own but since going to university and going out to work I have found little time to do this.  Therefore, unfortunately, lot of what I have learnt, I have forgotten because due to it lack of use I cannot remember much of it.

No comments: