Speaking Chinese

I’ve been speak­ing pure Chinese for almost an entire week straight. Certain mus­cles in my tongue that I did­n’t know exist­ed are tired. People tell me they’re sur­prised at how good my Chinese is — not just in terms of pro­nun­ci­a­tion, but vocab­u­lary as well — and won­der how it’s pos­si­ble with­out any means of prac­tice. I can’t explain this myself, aside from a con­stant inter­est in learn­ing new terms, and a love of Chinese movies (although this is more of a love of Hong Kong, and Chinese movies are my sen­ti­men­tal way of revis­it­ing it). There are also some Chinese terms that have no English equiv­a­lent, and peo­ple are always shocked when I know them.

Somehow, I can switch between the lan­guages quick­ly when I’m here. I even catch myself count­ing in Chinese now, which they say is what reveals your moth­er tongue.


  1. It’s so true about count­ing in your moth­er tongue. After 20 years in US and speak­ing English 99% of the time, I still pre­fer to count in Russian, though I am more com­fort­able think­ing in English.

    • So you must swear in your head in Russian too. :)

      • Surprisingly, swear­ing always comes in English. I guess, hear­ing it from the day one in such insane amounts made it a nat­ur­al and, some­times, need­ed filler. It just doesn’t flow well with­out the “f” word:))

  2. Wow that’s real­ly great — my Chinese friend who grew up from age 6 in the States here gets teased about his Chinese when he goes back to vis­it, and his fam­i­ly always spoke Chinese at home. You must be keep­ing cur­rent!

    • Well…some peo­ple do tease me, but I think most are just plain sur­prised because I have no oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice speak­ing Chinese, but can hold my own in deep­er con­ver­sa­tions. My oth­er cousins have most­ly lost it all, so I sup­pose I’m just keep­ing the best out of them.

  3. Oh how my Chinese is so rusty, it’s been years since I spoke it (much less read­ing and writ­ing it) and when I did to my girl­friend’s par­ents, I felt so tongue tied. It was hilar­i­ous. I’m assum­ing since you’re in Hong Kong that Cantonese is your moth­er tongue rather than Mandarin.

    You still got to love Hong Kong movies and dra­mas (or Taiwanese dra­mas for that mat­ter). It’s a class of its own com­pared to it’s west­ern coun­ter­parts. Half the time, absolute­ly epic.

    • I do fre­quent­ly feel tongue tied; there are con­cepts in English that I just don’t have the abil­i­ty to express in Chinese, espe­cial­ly because I’m so picky with my words. I gen­er­al­ly find a way around it, using exam­ples, but some­times I’m not sure if I’m get­ting through the right way. And yep, my moth­er tongue is Cantonese.

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