FAIRY TALE FEASTS: Reading and Eating

Wed, Dec 3rd, 2014 4:37:42 pm

          I found one of the stories used in CHINESE FAIRY TALE FEASTS in a Chinese-language collection 中國古代民間故事叢書or A COLLECTION OF FOLK TALES FROM ANCIENT CHINA.
          This made me ponder Chinese heritage. Most Chinese parents living outside of China want their children to know about Chinese traditions, reasoning that, "Well, they look Chinese, so they should know something about it."
          Chinese food is the easy part. You can eat out at a reasonable price, cook it from scratch, order in, or buy pre-cooked frozen goodies.
          Language is harder.  Most Chinese Canadians of my generation (baby boomers born in the 1950s) don't now speak or write Chinese, even though many of us, as children, attended Cantonese language school and were fluent at home.
          Those classes proved not very useful. One big reason is this: spoken Cantonese isn't like written Chinese. You may have heard that while China has many dialects, they are all united by one shared written script. That's true. But while Mandarin is spoken pretty much as the language is written, Cantonese is not.
          For example, in Cantonese-language school, if we had been taught from a book to ask, "Where were they born?" we would have learned this line:
          "他們在那裡出生?" pronounced as "Ta moon joi na lui chut saang."
          At home, speaking in Cantonese, I would have asked that same question as, "Kui dei hai haih been do chut sai?" (佢地係喺边道出世?"
          Quite a difference, no?
          Even worse, many Chinese Canadians spoke at home  a non-Cantonese dialect, such as Toisanese, which made what we learned at Chinese school even less useful.
          Is it any wonder that so many of us Canadian-born Chinese hated Chinese school?
          Thank goodness Chinese food is much easier to confront.

from Hong Kong Qiao Guang Shu Dian, 1967
From: Hong Kong Seagull Publishing Co., 1981
 
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