Saturday, 15 September 2007

Yellow On The Outside, White On The Inside...




Ok, there is this one thing that I’ve always wondered…


Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the Hokkien dialect and Cantonese dialect part of the Chinese language?

Because as far as I am concern, they are…After all, aren’t Chinese made up of like Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew, HokChiu, Cantonese, Mandarin etc?



Which is why I get a tad bit annoyed when people call me a banana when they find out I don’t speak Mandarin…



A lot of my course mates from the American University Program (actually, a lot of people from my college) come from Chinese schools and/or grew up in Mandarin-speaking families.



I, on the other hand, am fully Convent-bred…Both my dad and mum, are Hokkiens…

Naturally, I speak English and Hokkien at home…And since I live in Ipoh, I also speak Cantonese…



And I come to college, and I have this whole bunch of people who give me this incredulous look on their face (like I’m a dog that brought something foul into the building) that says only too well: “Oh My God! You don’t speak Mandarin? Why you so banana one?


*Actually the actual version I hear is: "Aiyer, you banana!"*


And I’m left thinking: “Eh? Hokkien and Cantonese not Chinese meh?



I get even more annoyed when someone speaks in Mandarin to me, and some smart aleck somewhere will quip: "She banana!"

And laugh and hackle…



Excuse me, contrary to popular belief, I actually do understand enough to know roughly what is being said. I just can’t reply. And why must you butt in when my friend and I are comfortable with the way we converse? She to me in Mandarin, and me to her in English?



And my apologies if I sound patronizing, but I have never laughed at you when you speak English and it comes out sounding like this:-

The girls is crossings the roads to catches the bus early


Neither do I laugh at you when you read the textbook and need to look up 8 out of 10 words in your electronic dictionary (and write the Mandarin equivalent on the top of the English word).

So why do you have to laugh?



Interestingly, I don’t have this problem much back in Ipoh. It is only here in Penang where I get this question almost every time someone finds out I can’t speak Mandarin.

I googled the meaning of banana, and it means ‘Yellow on the Outside, White on the Inside’…A Chinese person who can’t speak the language or identify with Chinese people.



Back to my statement: Since when did Mandarin become the one and only Chinese language? Since when is it that Hokkien and Cantonese became a ‘white’ language?



When people say that (especially those who speak Mandarin and only Mandarin well and think they are helluva great), and my mood isn’t too good, I’m tempted to retort a few things, like:-


1) Wah…I speak 2 dialects, you only speak 1 wei! My teacher said, 2 better than 1…Aiyo, you dunno how to count meh?

2) Eh, we going to the USA/Canada/UK hor? Need to take TOFEL or IELTS ar. Laugh at me lar, we’ll see who will laugh when must take exam ok?




I have a feeling I am not the only person who has encountered these kinds of condescending reactions before. After all, I know of many of my Indian friends who don't speak Tamil (or any other Indian Dialect). And I also have many friends who are of mixed-parentage who speak only English and Malay.



*Note
: I am in no way belittling the Mandarin language, and neither am I saying it is not a ‘useful’ language. By the way, please (Thank you!) be patient with my responses. The wireless system at my hostel has problems opening Blogger...



67 comments:

winniethepooh said...

its funni though, for me, over here in Canada, its the opposite. When the asian see me, they presume i speak Cantonese and start conversing with me in that. I'm hokkien/teochew (althought i speak mandarin) and can only roughly make out the cantonese langauge. I say "sorry, I dun understand", sometimes they give me a 'ohhh-how-come-u-dont-understand' look too.

After a while, i just got used to it, I just smile :) at least I speak english and that, they should understand :)

keep cool gal!

DareDevil8 said...

same sentiment here
i'm a hokkien born in PJ,invariably so the lingua franca here is cantonese.i guess it's great to promote one of these dialects to ease communication among the chinese.unluckily we are on the wrong side of the bed!

sent u a mail

cheers

jimi said...

Daph, seperti Daph saya yang tinggal di Kampar, majoritinya bangsa Cina yang bertutur dalam kantonis. Seperti juga di Ipoh.

Masa saya kecil, saya banyak menonton drama Kantonis, jadi kenal juga lah siapa dia Carina Lau Kah Ling, dan sekarang ni Sammi Cheng yang dah tak berapa popular. Dalam majalah Galaxie, i do read Eastern Watch.Like Why Leslie Cheung want to kill himself or did he killed himself?...INTERESTING!

Pernah suatu hari, saya membaca komen daripada pembaca di Star, yang meminta rangkaian tv menyiarkan lebih banyak program Mandarin berbanding Kantonis dengan alasan " the majority of Malaysian Chinese speak Mandarin"

Waktu itu, baru saya sedar perbezaan Kantonis dan Mandarin.

Then, later on, as outsider, saya lihat semakin banyak programme Mandarin these days as compared to Kantonis waktu dulu-dulu.

Yang pernah saya baca, BANANA merujuk kepada orang Cina yang tak boleh berbahasa Cina.

Thanks for enlightened me, Daph

Oh, as Malay, ada juga orang gelar orang Melayu yang tak tahu berbahasa Melayu as Mat Saleh Celup.Sigh..

Just like you said, people always stereotyping people. which is not fair.

"it is you who make yourself proud" said Amy Tan.

jimi said...

Daphne tahutak masyarakat Tamil sekarang tidak pandai membaca tulisan Tamil sepertimana orang Melayu tidak pandai membaca Jawi? Hmm interesting, bukan.

Jaded said...

I get that all the time!! I mostly just laugh it off or say 'wo hui ii tian tian' and laugh. Excuse my pathetic pin yin.

It's not Penang people that is like that I think. It's just that in ADP a LOT of them come from Chinese-medium schools. Besides, you're already better than me. I can't speak Cantonese to save my life!!

Believe me, not knowing Canto AND Mandarin can be quite a chore in a chinese community. Hokkien is just not well known enough. *sigh*

sankochan said...

yes yes!!! i support you....

besides... i love banana~~

hey bana- wana- fo-fana~~

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Winnie,

The opposite huh? At least, they just give you a look...Here, they actually exclaim out loud! That I can take, you know, the 'surprise'...

But what irks me is those who insist on harping on it...Like keep mentioning banana...

I mean, what's the point you're trying to make?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi DareDevil8,

Thank you for your email =)

It really shouldn't be a 'competition-of-sorts'...

Language should be a unifying point, not a point of strife...Shouldn't we be looking for a common language, instead of harping on what one knows and the other doesn't?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Jimi,

Memang ada perbezaan di antara Cantonis dengan Mandarin...Tapi similarity tetap ada...

That is why I can understand generally what is being said when people converse in Mandarin, although I might not get the full picture...The 'bunyi' is a little different from one dialect to the next...But quite similar for a lot of words...

As for Indians who can't read Tamil and Malays who can't write Jawi/Arabic, I don't see what the problem is...

Like I said, language should be a point of unity, and language is inherently a method of communication...So we should concentrate on what language we have in common, instead of harping on the differences!

Kalau I faham you, and you faham I, cukuplar kan? Kenapa asyik nak bising yang I tak boleh cakap bahasa 'you'?

As for Melayu-Celup, I tak faham pun...The Malay language is the nation's language...Every citizen 'should' know (again, circumstances don't always allow)...So why only label Melayu who can't speak as Celup?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Jaded,

Ah...Same college, same problem...Actually, not only in college I get this...Outside also...

Maybe it's cos many people in Penang speak Mandarin, and they expect that everyone speaks that, not taking into consideration that there are people who don't, or that people might come from a primarily Cantonese society...

Ish...

Susahnya...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Sandra,

Huh, we always have the same problem huh? Shopping ke, eating out ke, college ke...

Sad...

Ru-V said...

Hey my fav banana, ;)
lol..I so relate to what you've just posted except for the fact that I'm Indian and I don't speak nor understand Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien.The best part is 95% of my friends population have always been Chinese. I can be sitting in a group of people and they'll go on on,babbling away in whichever dialect they fancy.When I tell them what they're doing they'll laugh it off or simply continue talking just to irritate the heck out of me.This is when I stand up and walk away.
On the other hand, I've also become the enemy of many Indian "friends" because I've always refused to speak Tamil in school or in an environment of mixed populations.I was thought to be cocky and someone who is ashamed of my culture and language.Mind you(I mean them), I've always been proud to be an Indian and I speak my language fairly well. I just happen to believe in communicating in a language that every one mutually understands.
But despite all this, I've had the privilege of having some very good friends who've always made the effort to translate whenever possible.Others share the same principle as me of speaking in English where it's mutually understood by every one in the group.
People nowadays,(especially in our college) have become very insensitive over such issues and funnily, no matter how much you tell them about how insensitive they are ,the comment is perceived to be a joke.(People here have a weird sense of humor)
So, honestly I don't know if this situation will ever change.
But like you said, let's see who'll be laughing in the UK,States or Canada? :P
love ya!! :D

WP said...

Hey, that's exactly what I think to myself! I speak Hokkien, manage to understand simple everyday Mandarin, but take too much time to think of Mandarin words to use the language. So I hate it when people say I'm a banana (not that many people call me that, actually, but I just take offense at that label 'cos I know the people who use it wouldn't hesitate to label me that) After all, it's no fault of mine that I don't speak Mandarin! I just happen to have both parents who speak the same dialect!

I find it weird that you have a problem in Penang though; couldn't you just speak Hokkien to everyone?

Still, I think you have it easier than me, since you speak Cantonese...when I say "I don't speak Mandarin", people will usually proceed to speak to me in Cantonese :/ So to avoid that, I've ended up saying "I don't speak Chinese" instead, even though it's not strictly true...any ideas what I should do? :?

mellisa said...

hey there,
mellisa here. dnt know whether you still remember me anot. anyway, stumbled upon your blog and it's a really really nice blog. keep up the good work gal. hugs~

Daphne Ling said...

Hey Ru,

Ah...You have taken banana to a new dimension altogether...An Indian who can't speak! Cool...That's what being multi-racial is all about!

I hear you on the whole speaking in the one language everyone understands...

Love you too dear...See you tomorrow =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi WP,

Surprisingly yes, I have a problem in Penang...I always thought it would be easier for me since I speak Northern Hokkien anyway...

As for how to answer:-

1) Go "Wah beh heow kong" in Hokkien...They should get the picture you're a Hokkien who can't speak any other dialect (ok, they might not realise it is Hokkien, but they would realise it is Chinese)...

2) Say you don't speak Mandarin, and add "Wah si Hokkien lan"...So they realise you are Hokkien and can speak the dialect...

That of any help?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Mellisa,

Of course I remember you! How have you been doing girl? Thanks for dropping by...I'll pay you a visit soon =)

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

alamak, ok i'll keep it in mind that no more 'wan an' at the end of our nightly chat...hihi.. i actually learned that from my malay buddy who is very fluent in mandarin.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kerp,

Aiya, like I said I can understand generally lar...Just can't speak only...

If you speak in detail then of course I can't get you...But Wan An not detail lar...;)

You're funny lar you!

mott said...

Actually, in China itself, not everyone speaks Mandarin, they speak their local dialect.

So.. ask those gwai-lo's to go to those regions and risk their lives calling them 'bananas' la..

I'd like to see billions of Chinese give them the slitty dagger eye! *guffaws*

aemi said...

haha.. its okay nai..

me is a nanana too!

me wove you :)

zorro said...

Daph, your friends could call me worse. Tho Hokkien, I have limited vocab.Friends say I am OCBC. Orang Cina bukan Cina. I get very annoyed when chinese sales-girls open their sales pitch in Mandarin. I usually retort: yeah continue speaking Mandarin and you will always remain a salesgirl.Its cruel but the message is quite clear.

Agree with Ru-v. It is downright rude to speak your native lingo that your companions dont understand.

Li Ann said...

lol..i get the same reaction here at usm. but what irks me most is being called banana by a fellow ipoh girl (who probably doesn't know i can speak canto)

Anonymous said...

hey, i was just randomly surfing and got to your blog. anyway, i read your post, and trust me, i feel you. i am from ipoh too (probably went to the same school too). yes, i know hokkien and cantonese. never really spoke mandarin before i went to college. ironically, i picked up mandarin in the US when i was in college there. met a couple of nice girls from china and i picked up "real" mandarin from them.
i'm here in penang now and yes, everyone tends to speak in mandarin and many just assumed that i don't know mandarin and would ask 101 silly questions if i attempted to speak in mandarin. arrgh!
btw, next time, if people here laugh at you for not being able to speak mandarin, it might be comforting to know that not all of them speak that well either. it's not exactly mandarin, it's mangarin (as in manglish for english), if you get what i mean.
oops... got carried away... anyways, take it easy! great blog! :)

PrincessJournals said...

i feel for u girl. i kno not all but certain dialect-speaking ppl will think less of other dialect-speaking person. macamlah all chinese must kno how to speak in all dialect. cannotlah like tht kan?

tokasid said...

Daph:

You a Banana?
If only those who call you really know about Banana, they won't be calling you that again.banana is a tasty fruit and can be prepared in many ways,unlike apple or mandarin orange. You've got friend banana,banana split and banana krepek(krepek pisang). Have you heard about fried apple/mandari orange? Or Apple split or krepek Epal?

For a Malaysian Chinese, when you can communicate in cantonese and Hokkien is good enuf.And we are not Singaporean which made mandarin as an important language.

There are many Malays who don't talk the bahasa malaysia for their daily communication( unless in something formal and govt linked ceremony/meeting). Most will talk in bahasa rojak and their very own local dialect. I still speak with the bahasa Utara dialect even when speaking to someone from Kelantan.Trengganu, Negeri 9 or Javanese speaking friends.( of course the slang used is not as pekat as speaking to another Utara chap). But the messages got across.

And if we care to watch the prgme dari Parlimen at night, we'll see most MPs speaking using their own slang. An MP from Kelantan will speak BM in the Kelantanese slang. A Kedahan will do the same. In fact samy Vellu and Lim Kheng Yeik speaks BM with the Tamil and ?Cantonese/?Hokkien slangs respectively.

Why not you tell them(those calling you banana): Go fly kites!!

the Razzler said...

Dear Daphne ..

hehe :) :) .. just be cool about everything.

Trust me .. what you've achieved with your life so far ..there are lots of people who can't even hold a candle against you!!

You can pick up the language along the way (& only if you wants to).. hehe :) :)

I can understand most chinese dialects but totally lost in hokien & hainanese... and that, too, after spending 3 years in kedah & penang .. how sad!! My friends there are just so understanding that they spoke cantonese with me .. :) :)

Did I tell you that I can't read chinese .. & my wife is chinese educated!! .. :) :)

fusion16 said...

ahhh yess... the banana issue. i don't understand why there is such a big fuss about it either...
i never knew what a banana was until i got to university... =D

Sunflower said...

Essentially that's why I started speaking Mandarin to my Chinese-educated roommates when I went to college -- I didn't want to be labelled a banana or thought of as a snob. My Mandarin is not that great but then their English sometimes seems worse so it's like chicken and duck talk...

Anonymous said...

Mind you, Cantonese and Hockkien and Mandarin are all but just dialects of of the Chinese culture. You are Hockkien and speak Hockkien, fine, but can you read in Hockkien? I guess there is where the BANANA part come right in.

Not mean to offend.

My dear Daph, why don't you start to learn more about the Chinese languages, the writings and their philosophies? Why don't you start to learn more about the history of ancient and modern(not Communist but Sun Yat Sen's era) China? I am sure you will appreciate what being Chinese is all about.

Erh, since when Penangites are so Mandarin-minded? I guess must be the effect of influx of 'foreigner' into the state.

Good day and cheer.

IBU said...

If you are a banana, then you'll surely among a favourite amongst all banana lovers, i tell ya...

hehe ... we must learn to laugh at some thoughts that descend to that level of stereotyping.

if they embrace unity in diversity, they would value the differences amongst us. Kan?

Cheers!

Puteri said...

Never knew that Mandarin speaking Chinese would call non-Mandarin speaking Chinese "banana"! I always thought that it only applies to Chinese people who don't act like a Chinese, or speak any Chinese.

What a lousy way of boosting one's ego and sense of superiority!

Nightwing said...

Hi there Daphne, agree with Puteri. I think they simply mis-use the term.

Any way, where u r going...English is important. As for Mandarin, maybe u can take it as a subject when u r in Uni for extra credits.

Mandarin will be useful when u come out to the work force, i.e doing business in/with China or Taiwan, or the local tycoons.

Keep cool, u r doing fine.

justnoregrets said...

Hi Daphne Ling. I am Justin, a new blogger. Was attracted to your blog description of `aphasia-dysphasia'. How medically it may sound, i feel both conditions are a torture to anyone who has it. Being a `banana' is definitely better than being aphasic or dysphasic. Therefore, we should be complacent with the gift of `voice'. There are thousands of languages in the world. It will be suffice to master those that we know. What do we care of what other think about us being banana? No big deal.

*Daphne, can u comment on my new blog? Need some opinion here. Some sincere comments.

Penanak Nasik said...

hahaha Daphne, marah? Tak sangka boleh baca awak marah. Seemed like a whole new you arose from the blog. And its diabolical. Shows that we are all human and have feelings underneath the facade. Take care girl...

Penanak Nasik

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Mott,

Yeah, I was just thinking what would have happened if they go and call a Hokkien/Cantonese/Hainanese/TeoChew
etc person in China a banana? Wah...Dahsyat wei...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Aemi,
Haha...We both only speak Hokkien and Cantonese, so that makes us a banana huh? Hope all's well in UK for you dear...

Hi Uncle Zorro,
I don't mind if people immediately assume I can speak Mandarin...What I do mind is people who insist on speaking to me in Mandarin even when I tell them I have lost the conversation...After all, sales lingo is too much for me...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Aemi,
Haha...We both only speak Hokkien and Cantonese, so that makes us a banana huh? Hope all's well in UK for you dear...

Hi Uncle Zorro,
I don't mind if people immediately assume I can speak Mandarin...What I do mind is people who insist on speaking to me in Mandarin even when I tell them I have lost the conversation...After all, sales lingo is too much for me...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Li Ann,

Ah...Ipoh person who suddenly becomes hollier-than-thou in another state? Ah...I really don't see what kind of thrill this people get when they make such remarks...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 10.33 pm,

Welcome! Thank you for understanding how irk-some it can be...

How ironic it is that you end up going to the US to learn huh? You know, I only learnt to speak Cantonese when I was around 14 years old.

Till today, when I speak Cantonese, my friends say it has got a slight twang to it, but they understand me, and that is what is important...

As for Mandarin, I understand more Mandarin now than when I first came to Penang...

Who knows? I might one day speak it too...After all, if you told me years ago that I will be speaking Cantonese one day, I would have found it hard to believe!

And this, I have my friends to thank...They didn't laugh when I had problems speaking, they just corrected me...And that's how I learned...

Interesting why some Mandarin speaking people find themselves too high and mighty that they have to laugh instead of teach...

PS: Which school were you from any way? I was from Main Convent Ipoh...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Princess,

Yep, it is quite impossible to be able to learn every single dialect...After all, we are not exposed to them all the time! Like me, having lived in Ipoh for so long, I was exposed to a lot of Cantonese, but not Mandarin...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Tokasid,

Oh dear, you are such a hoot!

How true...We all speak in the dialect we were all brought up in, and when needed (like official reasons) only do we speak differently...I never thought about it that way...=)

As for asking them to go fly kites, haha! No lar...Haven't reach that yet...If I ask people to go fly kites, means I am very, very, very angry already...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi The Razzler,

Yes, I can pick up languages along the way...That is very true...And I will...Like how I picked up quite a bit of Hindi in India...

In the meantime, I will be most appreciative if people won't keep announcing I don't speak the language and make it a joke...I need time to learn man! =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Fusion 16,

Haha...You get it too huh? But you're doing well lar...Half Chinese (or was it 3/4?) and you can speak both Cantonese and Hokkien...I'm sure not many of your half-Malay friends can do that!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Sunflower,

I don't understand why a person should be labelled as a snob if they don't want to speak a certain language...After all, don't people think that perhaps people are afraid others will laugh at them if they tried speaking another language?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 2.41 pm,

Hmmm...Where did you get the impression I don't read about the Chinese culture? I have actually traced my roots all the way back to ancient China...=)

I have read Sun Yat Sen's 'The Art of War', albeit in English...And I don't see what is wrong with reading about the Communist era lor...

After all, knowledge is knowledge...And I don't believe in reaping the 'good name' of my ancestors, nor do I believe in 'paying' for their sins...

I will be responsible for what I do...

Just because there were great Chinese of the past doesn't make me a better person, neither will it make me a bad-der person if the Communists did bad things...

But yes, I do appreciate my roots...Which is why I traced my surname =)

Reading Hokkien has got nothing to do with it...

After all, I write and read in English, but I am not 'white'...

Anonymous said...

I am anon 2:41pm.
Glad to see your reply.
Somewhat agree with puteri 11:37am, it takes more than a single character trait to define a person, likewise language, writing, history, philosphy and cultural must count in total to define one's background. Good to know that you actually read Sun Yat Sen, but reading it in English translations is another thing, the mind of a Western-educated can be very different to a Orient-educated person. People may see things differently.
You are right, reading and writing in English does not make one 'white', that's the dilemma of 'banana', they are middle of no where. It is important for a person to has a sense of belonging, how he can got it, is up to the wisdom of that person.
Like to share with you an ancient Chinese quotation, try to look for its meanings and heartily understand it, take this as a first step to get out of the 'banana' dilemma, 礼义廉耻,国之四维,四维不张,国乃灭亡. This is the description most pertinent to our country's current socio-political scenario.
Cheers and bye.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Ibu,

Oh believe me, I laughed it off too...But laughing it off has backfired, because they seem to think you don't mind them continuously mentioning it too, and lama-kelamaan, lagi syiok jadinya...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Puteri,

That's what I thought too wei! I think (think lar) that it is because some people seem to have got this notion of the superiority of Mandarin because many quarters now say it is an important language...

Nobody is arguing on its importance, and I'm sure people will readily agree with me that it is perhaps one of the most spoken Chinese dialect in the world (Maybe Cantonese second?)...

But that does not make all the other languages inferior...Neither does it make you not Chinese if you can't speak Mandarin...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Justin,

Sure, I will come over to your blog (once I am done here lar), and welcome to Blogosphere!

You are right...Why bother huh? But things do get on me...One of my very bad habits ;)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi NightWing,

Oops...Looks like the comment tak muncul...

I was telling you I do plan to learn Mandarin, although (maybe) not for extra credits, as I have French for that (I am going to Canada)...

I will settle for conversational Mandarin at the moment...

But thanks for the suggestion yeah? =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Penanak Nasi,

Hahahahaha....Adoi....Kelakar lar you ni =)

Saya boleh marah lar...Actually, kalau hit wrong nerve, memang I ada temper pun...

I may be the most patient person on earth for certain things, but there are things I don't tolerate at all...Boleh letup pun ;)

Betul! We are all humans...I'm sure everyone out there pun sama jugak...Kalau kena spot salah, habis ler, kan?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 2.41 pm @ 11.34 am,

Thank you for writing it in Chinese...

Lee YX said...

hahah, hey Daphne

resembling your situation a little, I can't speak good Mandarin despite being in the Chinese ed system since kindergarten. I think I face more mortification when I meet people who somehow discriminate bananas. Just because I didn't get my mother tongue right all through the years of learning it. Aih.

they find me incredulous as well but I know I grew up with practically banana parents.

Besides, in my case I tend to retaliate with "it's just the same for those who can't seem to master BM or English despite the years of learning it". So happen that the language I have a problem with is my mother tongue, and I'm the most incredible case now.

secretly: Thank goodness I know the English lg better than them.

Like your posts. keep it up.

cindy said...

helo daphne
i understand you. i'm from sabah and i speak 3 chinese dialects including mandarin, and a few functional phrases of hokkien too. i think i know why some ppl call us bananas. it's got to do with their apparent ignorance that mandarin is only a 'language' because of it spromotion as the language of china - thus the 'prestige' it has been accorded by the land of the chinese gives it a stage where it has become, to some people, THE chinese language. all things considered, ppl fail to understand that the continent of china is in, a political hegemony. *think Chin shihuang way back then.*
and secondly, i think ppl call us bananas because they dont speak English as good as we do. :) that's a little consolation i'd like to believe in anyway. maybe it's because sometime people do not think of our background - that we were brought up in different language conditions; it's weird that ppl assume that anyone who looks chinese should inherently speak chinese. sad to think what they'd think of ABC's in 'whitemen's countries, eh?

cindy said...

helo daphne
i understand you. i'm from sabah and i speak 3 chinese dialects including mandarin, and a few functional phrases of hokkien too. i think i know why some ppl call us bananas. it's got to do with their apparent ignorance that mandarin is only a 'language' because of it spromotion as the language of china - thus the 'prestige' it has been accorded by the land of the chinese gives it a stage where it has become, to some people, THE chinese language. all things considered, ppl fail to understand that the continent of china is in, a political hegemony. *think Chin shihuang way back then.*
and secondly, i think ppl call us bananas because they dont speak English as good as we do. :) that's a little consolation i'd like to believe in anyway. maybe it's because sometime people do not think of our background - that we were brought up in different language conditions; it's weird that ppl assume that anyone who looks chinese should inherently speak chinese. sad to think what they'd think of ABC's in 'whitemen's countries, eh?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Lee YX,

I get what you mean! Some people just can't get a language huh? But I personally think effort counts! But then again, a lot of people think it an insult if you can't master a language...Which I just tak faham...

Not that I am trying to exalt the English language or anything, but in today's world, it is pretty essential to survival in the rat race, no?

Thanks for coming by...=)

Daphne Ling said...

Hey Cindy,

Thanks for dropping by...

Woo...You speak Mandarin and they still call you banana?

How weird is that?

If it is indeed to cover their own inadequacies (calling us banana), it sure is a lousy way to boost one's esteem!

Instead of doing something for themselves, they make themselves feel better by calling people names?

Lame lar ;)

Anonymous said...

Somehow such phrase only comes with people from Penang. My daughter in UKM, years back, was quite upset when told of this in a demeaning way by these college mates. My only comments to rebud them is: What is so great being banana pudding, all ellow inside!!!

Anonymous said...

i can relate to this so well. i am chinese but born to a typical malacca nyonya family. we have our own lingo which is a mix of malay and hokkien. we practise the same customs as any chinese community, probably even more traditional than most of them. how to even explain?

passer-by said...

Hi daphne, I’m just a passer-by who accidentally bumped into this post while surfing on the net. Your blog intrigued me as it reminded me of my own experience in college, only the other way round.

As a Chinese-ed student who hardly speak any English then (I think my writing and reading ability were probably slightly better), I was laughed at by my course mates from time to time when I joined an English –medium college after my independent Chinese high school days. Thus I understand exactly how you feel. I think your dilemma and mine reflect precisely the problem we have in Malaysia today, that we are too segregated by our education system until we hardly understand each other even when we are all Chinese.

I guess there are several reasons for your Chinese-ed friends to say what they said to you:
1. Out of a kind of self-defense sentiment. See, you have to understand that back in 30 or 40 years ago, a lot of English-eds enjoyed better social and economical opportunities than their Chinese-ed counterparts and it was only common for them to look down on the others. There are still some people who hold on to that attitude today as we can sense from some of the comments above. So amongst us the Chinese schools students we still had the impression that the only reason for Chinese to go for English-education (or should we say malay schools now, no more English schools mah) and not chinese is simply because they were mere snobs who were too proud to learn to speak or read their own mother tongue. That is, of course, not all true in real facts.

2. out of their strong sentiment to Chinese education, which could sometimes hardly be apprehended by English-eds who were being brought up in a different environment. You see, the rights to Chinese education have always been at the heart of most malaysian Chinese(judging from the stats that more than 80% of Malaysian Chinese parents today send their children to srjkc). It was THE topic of discussion between tunku and tan siew sin and the brits before and after the independence and it is STILL the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing to be discussed between MCA and UMNO when it comes to how to win more Chinese votes. And I think it wouldn’t be something new when I say that most Chinese, especially the Chinese-eds, or even the Indians, have very strong feelings of being marginalized and victimized when it comes our government’s way of treating the vernacular schools. But a lot of people didn’t know about the details, check this out: more than 200 srjkc had been closed down since independence (500 for the tamil schools); more than 95% of our government education allocation today goes to the sjk, only 3.6% to the government-funded srjkc, and god-knows how many to the srjkt (reported in one of the Chinese dailies, couldn’t remember which); and mind you, a lot of people don’t notice that only 20% of Malaysian srjkc are fully-funded by the government, the rest are so-called half-funded srjks which mostly survived on fund-raising campaigns and rich school directors on board (and that’s the only time I like lim goh tong and Vincent tan :)); the passing marks for Chinese in upsr, pmr, spm and stpm are all much higher than the other subjects thus indirectly discouraging students to take up the subject, qualified maktab applicants who applied for the Chinese Language group were inexplicably and perennially sent to the other languages and subsequently sent to teach non-chinese subject (and that’s why our datuk hon called press conference regularly), and don’t even mention about POL, who finds that effective in learning a language anyway? And etc etc etc. I don’t list the above down only to complain about our government, but also to explain why some of the Chinese-eds seemed to be very defensive (and at times offensive) when it comes to the issue of mother tongue. It is obviously a violation of human rights for our government to subtly and systematically impede the ppl from learning their mother tongue. While some of the eng-eds are rather ignorant of these facts and sentiments, we the Chinese-eds were being reminded over and over and over again by our parents, media, Chinese schools teachers and HMs about the preciousness of our opportunity to our mother tongue, which is true. So with this mindset in head, plus the fact that we hardly mingle with anyone who is not Chinese-eds until we go college/uni, we sometimes really do not know what to make out of people who came from a different background and ‘seemed’ to take the issue of mother tongue likely.

So yes, I think it was wrong for your friend to call u banana because that’s insulting and it’s not your fault that you don’t know mandarin or read Chinese, just like them not being able speaking English fluently. Reciprocally, it is also not right for you to said “Laugh at me lar, we’ll see who will laugh when must take exam ok?” which is disrespectful. Just look at Singapore and we know that It’s this race-base, xxxx-up educational system which we have in this beloved bolehland that makes us only competent in a single language. So, why tease at the others while we are both victims of something else?

But no, I don’t think knowing only how to speak hokkien or cantonese or even Mandarin is adequate if you are really that appreciative of your root as you claimed. For one, The Art of War was written by Sunzi (whose real name is Sun Wu孙武, in ‘sunzi’, ‘sun’ is the surname while ‘zi’ is an honor title to address learned people, just like ‘kong zi’- confucius and ‘laozi’) and not sun-yat-sen, who was the founding father of modern china. And that is exactly the problem you will encounter by not holding the very key to your culture, the written literacy. Whatever you learn will remain somehow superficial. As someone who is now both Chinese and English literate (although my English is still rather half-bucket), I personally feel that the only way to fully appreciate Shakespeare is by reading his original work in his original words and not through the Chinese translated version. I guess you would agree with me on that. So I sincerely hope that you would one day get to learn more about your own culture just like the way I enjoy reading English blogs and books now. Let’s also hope that your friends grow and learn to be more mature and respectful for differences. In fact we all should, shouldn’t we?

Btw, better be careful when you say ‘wah si hokkien lan’ and not ‘wah si hokkien lang’. A lot of difference there lerrr :).

passer-by said...

btw because mandarin is taught in chinese school in malaysia, so ppl who do not speak mandarin are easily spotted as non chinese-eds. i used to have a college friend from johor who speak fluent mandarin(thanks to singaporean influence) but don't read or write chinese. we only noticed that after a few months until we went to cinema together, she complained about not being able to understand cantonese and cant read the chinese subtitles. :)

indy said...

while it is true that mandarin is the unifying language for the chinese people, you can tell the chinese educated peers that mandarin or putonghua is a beifang hua, the malaysian chinese are mostly nan fang ren. while knowing mandarin is a good thing, it boils down to whether you know it as a first language, second language or third language. for chinese-malaysians, not everyone speaks mandarin as a first language. you can also remind your chinese-educated peers that english is THE international language. so would it not be better to have english as a first language, mandarin as second language, and malay as third for chinese-malaysians. in singapore, you have mostly english as first language, mandarin as second language and now the top ten percent can learn a third language.

¢ħуαη 【♂】 said...

hmmm..

i speak mandarin but i don't write or read that great.
In from Malaysia BTW.

people doesn't know i'm somewhat a banana. But im still iritated that i couldn't write! DX

PS: Some only know mandarin and don't know other. Which is more or less the same. Just that majority of the chinese speaks mandarin. =/

Anonymous said...

IF i bothers you what they say, then learn mandarin the youll know exactly what they are saying. if your too cool or to dumb to learn mandarin then who cares what they say be proud of who you are.. i speak english and cantonese also,, I only learnt my cantonese from watching hong kong movies and tvb dramas.. which is why my cantonese accent is a lot better than alot of chinese people..

be proud of who you are you are chinese.. but your also a westerner go and make some white friends.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 6:06--->Anon 6:26,

Thanks everyone for your comments--they're so long and many, I can't reply all. I did read though.

For Anon 6:06: You know, it's weird, but as unifying as language is, it's also what divides.

As for Anon 6:26: "too cool or too dumb?" Wow, how wonderfully condescending when you're in the same boat (Hmmmm). I am perfectly fine being Chinese, it's just people who seem to think Mandarin is the only way of identifying oneself as Chinese who think I shouldn't be one. And yet, I will continue to tell people I'm one. Still think I'm not proud to be one? And I don't make friends with people because of their skin colour or ethnicity. I make friends, period.

Stacy H. said...

this book really explains it all --- Yellow on the Outside, Shame on the Inside: Asian Culture Revealed----http://ansonchi.webng.com/