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...