Which Chinese?

We have a situation here.

My mum doesn’t speak Chinese.


You would have imagined that being a Chinese my mum would surely speak Mandarin Chinese – or PuTong Hua as it’s referred to in China.

But, NO.

She speaks ‘FengHua hua’ – the dialect from her (and my) hometown, Fenghua, a smaill city about three hours drive south from Shanghai. PuTong Hua – together with Simplified Chinese – is something that only came into live when she was already in primary school, and she told me that no teacher in her school knew how to speak PuTong Hua although they were supposed to teach it to the kids!! So my mother’s PuTong Hua stays at a level that she’s comfortable only at listening but not speaking for more than a few minutes without feeling awkward. For those who might be wondering, PuTong Hua is as similar to FengHua Hua as what’s French to Spanish … so you get the idea.

Nicolas understands Putong Hua well, but not Fenghua Hua. My mum makes an effort to speak Putong Hua sometimes, but sometimes not (she simply slips back to what’s the most natural for her, consciously or unconsciously).

So the situation is: sometimes I end up having to interprete one form of Chinese into another form of Chinese. Now, THAT is crazy!!

Next time, when you ask something about the Chinese language, it’s perhaps a good idea to specify which Chinese you are referring to.

P.S., just in case you are wondering, PuTong Hua is the one that I’m speaking to Nina. Alas, for the moment she’s getting input of both PuTong Hua and Fenghua Hua though …

1 Comment

Leave a Reply