Whenever I visited Taiwan as a child, my family and friends there were always so very impressed with my Taiwanese, and not just because I was the American kid. Other kids my age or generation who had grown up in Taiwan often couldn’t speak it, even if it was their home language.
In fact, kids coming back to visit Taiwan from America were often more fluent in Taiwanese than their Taiwanese counterparts, thanks to the cultural and linguistic time capsule effect that comes with immigration–we learn the language and culture of our parent’s generation and not the evolving modern one of the present day in our heritage country. So I’ve always been pretty proud to speak Taiwanese, especially when the language became politically preferred in the newly democratic Taiwan and I got extra pats on the back from family for upholding the Taiwanese heritage.
And then polyglot linguist extraordinaire Mike Campbell comes along and shatters my self-image by speaking not only Taiwanese and Mandarin fluently, but a good majority of all the dialects in Taiwan as well. Way to make me feel like an epic fail. Thanks, Campbell. You’re awesome.