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.