Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life as a Banana

If you personally knew me well enough by now, you'd probably figure out sooner or later that I'm what people would call a 'Banana'.

Can you spot the Banana?

A Banana refers to a person who is yellow (Asian) on the outside, white on the inside. In other words, a Chinese who can't speak Mandarin, but speaks English.

Its funny that my parents could speak Cantonese fluently, but I've never been taught how to speak the language. Ever since I was a kid, I'd usually hear them argue in Cantonese. So I came up with a conclusion that the only reason why my parents never taught me Cantonese is because they probably didn't want me to understand what their arguments are about.

But I think the reason why I never picked up the language was probably because I wasn't too interested in it.

Believe it or not, I've even gone to several Chinese schools before I studied in a private school. I spoke very little Mandarin because back then, I was extremely shy and I was afraid to talk to people. So I barely had any practice with my Mandarin speaking skills and it was hard to make friends.

However, the only time I ever spoke Mandarin or Cantonese fluently is whenever I order food. Hey, when you're hungry and gotta eat, you gotta speak up; nobody speaks English at a local coffee shop.

But if I have to speak Mandarin and its not about food, there's my problem; either I couldn't understand or I have no confidence in replying. Some people say that I have an accent whenever I speak Mandarin because I sound like a white person who can't pronounce things properly.

Back when I was in private school, I was pretty much normal over there because everything was in English. Now that I'm in government school, it really hits me that I am a Banana among mangoes (yellow on the outside, yellow on the inside, get it?).

On the other hand, at least I can still manage to understand what people are basically saying once in a while so that I can survive. Speak to me in Mandarin though, and things get pretty awkward. Like this one conversation I had had with a little girl:

Translation: Have you seen my mom?

And then I'd think for while and usually say:

Translation: Err... I dunno...

And then she went:

Then a worried looking lady came up to the girl from behind, so I left and I can hear her say:

Translation: Hey, why aren't you talking to me? Oh, hi mom!

Thank God I was right about that woman, otherwise I'll be stuck with that little girl until we find her mom.

Well, that's the hard life living as a banana. I really wish I could speak Mandarin or Cantonese as fluent as any other locals around because I feel really inadequate having being able to speak only English and Malay instead of my mother's tongue.

Its true that being able to speak English means that I can communicate with international people, but sometimes, I wish I could trade the language with Cantonese so that I can finally speak to my dad's side of the family or talk to my grandma.

But for now, I guess I'll just have to accept that I'm a banana. For now.

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