Canto Speak


Jasmine Hui, 20

Chinese-American

Washington


Cantonese speakers might know the phrase, "sik teng, mm sik gong"(or in written Chinese: 識聽唔識講). In Cantonese speaking settings, it means, "I understand Cantonese but I can't speak it." It's a phrase I grew up hearing when my parents would speak for me and my siblings. It's a reminder that we grew up in America where English is used everywhere and our Cantonese skills aren't too advanced since we only spoke it at home.


For many Chinese people, one's regional language is often a significant part of their identity. For example, it is my parents roots in Hong Kong, where Cantonese is predominant, that my family and I feel connected to. When I hear this phrase, it feels like my identity as a Cantonese person is being challenged.


It can be frustrating and it feels like I'm being treated like a child, but I find comfort in knowing that the language is already a part of me. I may be American, but I am also Cantonese. Even if I forget every word of Cantonese I know, it wouldn't change who I am.


I wanted this piece to be humorous hence the sock puppets. The title is also a play on the term "Cantonese-speaker."