MY CONNECTION WITH LANGUAGES AND MUSIC
This might be a little ramble-y, but these questions come up a lot, so I’ll try my best to be thorough in answering them. ?
It all began with a lullaby. My siblings are 10 and 13 years older than me, so they played a huge role in my upbringing especially after I became a teenager. When I was a baby, my sister used to sing popular Cantonese songs as lullabies to sing me while I slept. There was always Chinese music playing in the house and we were no strangers to KTV (more commonly known as “karaoke”).
I learned to talk while also learning to sing. By the time I was four, my aunt recorded an album on cassette of cover songs entirely in Cantonese and Mandarin. I recently digitalized it, and my artist name is “Lil Bao Bao” ? (in Chinese, we say, “bao”; in Hawai’i, we say, “manapua”). I don’t know if I’ll ever release this album, but it would be so fun! Haha
At that time, I only spoke Cantonese and Diojiu. My grandmother, Ah Mah raised me, and Diojiu is the only dialect she speaks, so of course, I speak it too. I learned Mandarin in Chinese school. It sucked, but I’m thankful that I can speak an entirely different language because of Chinese school. By the way, in my personal opinion, the “dialects” of Chinese are entirely different languages. It’s like saying that Spanish and Italian are the same language, but different dialects. I find it very odd that Mandarin and Cantonese are considered different dialects; when in actuality, they are, in fact, different languages. Too bad I don’t know how we can change that misconception.
Anyway, I spoke Diojiu to Ah Mah, and the rest of the family spoke Cantonese... so I didn’t learn English until I was six. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I learned English when I was six because my family doesn’t speak English at home. We watched the news in Cantonese, I watched Cantonese cartoons, and we only ate Cantonese food. The food is different from Mandarin-speaking areas too.
Right before I started learning English, my dad enrolled me in the Daddy & Me piano class at the Yamaha music school.
[to be continued]
PHOTO | @mmkwock
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