Senior’s Mandarin background makes English difficult
November 21, 2016
Filed under Profiles
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Out of the six percent of Shores students who are bilingual (meaning they can speak two languages fluently), senior Liu Hao, known as “Sunny,” can speak Mandarin.
Born in China, he learned to speak Mandarin through his environment and learned how to understand, read, and write Mandarin through school.
Since Liu’s arrival to the United States in sixth grade, he has learned to speak, understand, read, and write English.
“Learning the English language was a little difficult because of how different Chinese and English grammar are, and so it was difficult to make the change,” Liu said.
Even after six years of living in the United States, Liu said he still speaks Mandarin with family at home and when he visits any Chinatown. As with many languages, there are words and phrases in Cantonese that don’t directly translate to English.
“One that I can think of off the top of my head is 二鳥一石” (Èr niǎo yīshí), which is something along the lines of ‘kill two birds with one stone’ in English,” Liu said. “If someone were to learn to speak Mandarin, it would be easy to learn how to pronounce and use the words, but learning to read and write Mandarin would be extremely difficult as there are millions of words in Chinese and a total of 52 dialects of Mandarin.”
From where Liu lived in China, the people spoke Mandarin, but in the form of Cantonese. Liu said Cantonese, a dialect of Mandarin, is different in how words are pronounced.
“For example, one difference between Mandarin and Cantonese, like saying ‘Hi,’ is ‘Nǐ hǎo’ in Mandarin and ‘Nee ho’ in Cantonese,” Liu said.
He said the difference in pronunciation varies; some words are the same in both Mandarin and Cantonese, but some are different.
“Cantonese is to Mandarin as the southern drawl of Texas is to English,” Liu said.
As beneficial as Lui sees his skill, he revealed that being bilingual also comes with its own set of difficulties.
“My grammar in English sucks,” Liu said. “Chinese and English grammar are very different. English is difficult, but Chinese is very complex.”
Overall, however, Liu said he recognizes the value of his bilingualism and is grateful for this skill.
“I can speak two languages,” Liu said. “It seems pretty cool to me.”
One of his favorite things about speaking Cantonese in an English speaking country is using the language around his peers, because when he does use it, they do not understand.
“It is funny,” Liu said. “I like to see their reactions and faces when I say something in Mandarin.”