Recently on the Washington Post, Daniel Chen was interviewed about his life and the linguistic barriers that made him and his parents veritable strangers in their own home. He’s currently studying Mandarin Chinese at college to try to bridge this gap, but his parents also speak primarily Shanghainese, which is super different from standard Mandarin Chinese (think Spanish vs. Italian). This immediately reminded me of the 8Asians post I wrote about the Immigrant Linguistic Generation Gap. Chen’s situation, however, is a lot more serious than mine. He seems to barely be able to speak to his parents. At least with my parents, we have enough common linguistic ground across Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and English (and even some Spanish) to be able to communicate in a hodgepodge sort of way. Recently, they were telling me about how in their childhood they used to get mantao white bread from the Kuo Ming Tang soldiers that occupied Taiwan after World War II and the mid-century Chinese civil war and then get their butts beat by their parents for accepting it. I’m glad I can understand enough to have that kind of access to their life story, and Chen’s story makes me value the experience all the more.
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