A young Chinese girl is standing in front of a group of people.

Am I Chinese Enough?

A young Chinese girl is standing in front of a group of people.

I have always felt embarrassed whenever I speak Chinese. Whenever I have to order food in a Chinese-speaking place, my throat closes and I get tunnel vision. Even when I do manage to speak, I’m acutely aware of how much I stutter when I speak Chinese or how often I mispronounce something. As such, I don’t tend to speak it often whenever I go to Chinese-speaking countries. Why? Because I can’t speak Chinese. Well, not really, I can carry out a simple conversation, enough to get by, but I can’t really communicate, or have a deep conversation. I know it’s better than most, as there are some Asians who can’t speak Chinese at all, but I still always hate it whenever my relatives ask me questions in Chinese and I’m unable to understand them. Every year they do this to see if I learned more, and it’s always painful to show them how little I picked up.

It feels like a punch to the gut every single time I mumble to a waiter or to a summer school teacher that I can’t speak Chinese, to see their eyes narrow and get that look of “Oh. She’s one of them.” But besides that, people should be able to speak their own language! I’m Chinese, I should be able to speak Chinese! Why can’t I? 

But what’s even worse, I was born able to speak it as I lived in Asia when I was little, so I originally had a grasp of the language. I just lost it, and now, it seems like I can never get it back, not entirely. It’s a deep source of shame for me.  Many times, I wonder “Am I really Chinese if I can’t even speak my own language?” I mean, I eat the same food, look similar and even know a few words, but does that really qualify me as Chinese? Have I worked hard enough, and met the criteria for it? I don’t know, and often times, it feels like I didn’t pass the “Authentic Chinese Test”.

,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Touched by what you read? Join the conversation!

  • Stand Up Against Smothering Anxiety
    Stand Up Against Smothering Anxiety

    I’ve had some anxiety growing up—the stress of exams and ever-growing workload—but never to a point where it prevented me from sleeping or other physical ailments. Actually, that’s me in denial. I have TMJ and acid reflux periodically, but stress and anxiety have become so prevalent in our society that we accept them as the…

    Read more >>

  • Unveiling the Hidden Struggles: Navigating Mental Health Challenges in India
    Unveiling the Hidden Struggles: Navigating Mental Health Challenges in India

    In a world that’s gradually waking up to the importance of mental health, India’s situation serves as a reminder of the struggles many face with their mental well-being. While conversations around mental well-being have gained momentum, the reality in India is marked by financial constraints, societal stigma, and limited access to healthcare. The Harsh Reality:…

    Read more >>

  • The Role of Expectation Management in Success
    The Role of Expectation Management in Success

    At its core, expectation management is about aligning hopes with reality.  We’re taught to manage customers’ or employees’ expectations so they don’t become unwieldy, but the goal isn’t to settle for mediocrity; instead, it’s about being mutually transparent about what is realistically achievable.   Managing expectations is a vital skill that can make the difference between…

    Read more >>