“How can you not speak Cantonese?” People were all surprised when they heard that.
All right, I’ve been living almost 18 years in Guangzhou, with my grandfather and my mother being a native of Guangdong; I can understand most of the Cantonese words, but I truly don’t speak it.
Since I was a child, I had been told about the long history, great status and the beautiful tone of Cantonese by my grandpa who always had great expectations of me. Perhaps out of sheer contrariness, the more he talked, the less I would like to learn. It never occurred to me that Cantonese could be as good as he always said. Even though grandpa and mom speak Cantonese, they still need to speak Mandarin at work. Moreover, I heard that only Philistines – the vegetable vendor, the milk delivery guy, and the taxi driver speak Cantonese every day. I was so childish back then that I thought the group of “vulgar” people as one encumbered with Cantonese. Further, the government was promoting Mandarin. Official notices saying “Speak Mandarin and Write Standard Chinese” were posted everywhere in the school, making me even more averse to Cantonese. Dialects are an obstacle to a country’s progress. I vividly remember telling grandpa how I despised Cantonese, and he laughed reluctantly and said, “When we voted for the official language in the last century, Cantonese was only one vote behind Mandarin.” I curled my lip, …
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