How my Chinese heritage sparked my desire to learn Mandarin 我的中国传统如何激发了我学习普通话的愿望
How my Chinese heritage sparked my desire to learn Mandarin
Editor's note: With its unique cuisine, fascinating language and distinctive culture, China has something for everyone. In this series of features, we hear from several students at Cardiff University about just what led them to study Chinese.
Myths, legends and ancient history are popular topics among children around the world. Bedtime stories told to kids often include such stories and serve to both passively educate youngsters on the history of their own culture as well as inspire their curiosity in the world, potentially setting the stage for their future education, willingness to learn, and perhaps eventually their careers. As a child, my parents started me on Greek myths and legends, followed by the Romans and aspects of their culture which pervade Western society today.
For almost as long as I can remember, my Chinese heritage has been apparent to me. My father is Chinese in origin, having been born in Hong Kong to parents from the Chinese mainland, but he moved to the U.K. at a young age and grew up here. He never forgot, however, his Chinese roots and the stories he learnt at the knee of his grandmother, which he in turn passed down to me in my adolescence. His stories taught me of a rich new world — to which I had close relation — of history, philosophy, and a completely different world view. Yet it was always understood that this new world, so bountiful in stories of history and culture which I had always enjoyed so greatly, would be largely inaccessible throughout my time at school, due to a largely Western-centric education that is to be expected at a Western school.
As such, it became evident to me that if I wanted to have greater access to this world, I would have to study the Chinese language — and preferably Mandarin. My father, being a Cantonese speaker, could not help in this regard and so I had to turn to other media. My hope was that this endeavour would bring me closer to my heritage not only through a far greater understanding of China’s culture, but also by feeling a closer proximity to its people and my forebears. As a member of the Chinese diaspora, I feel it is my duty to learn all that I can about Chinese culture and history so that I might one day pass down this knowledge myself.
My journey along the path of learning both Mandarin and about China began in perhaps the best possible way — in the country itself when I spent several months living with family and was fortunate enough to travel and visit historical sites and places of cultural interest. In so doing, I was able to garner a taste of Chinese culture and attempted to plunge myself wholeheartedly into every aspect that I could — a truly superlative experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not only could I practise my admittedly rudimentary Chinese language skills in the places I visited, but I was also able to feel a true intimacy with the country and culture of my forefathers.
Perhaps the most memorable part of my time in China was being able to visit places mentioned in the stories I had been told as a child. Those stories which had once felt more removed from my everyday life, at once became tangible and more defined as I explored the places linked with them.
I continue down this path to this day, and hope to learn and explore much more once I have the chance.
Nick Ng is an undergraduate student in Modern Chinese at the University of Cardiff.
我沿着学习普通话和关于中国的道路的旅程也许以最好的方式开始 - 在这个国家本身，当时我与家人一起生活了几个月，并有幸旅行并参观了历史遗迹和文化景点。通过这样做，我能够获得中国文化的滋味，并试图全心全意地投入到我所能做到的每一个方面 - 一个真正最高级的经历，我将在我的余生中珍惜。我不仅可以在我访问过的地方练习我公认的基本汉语技能，而且还能够感受到与祖先的国家和文化的真正亲密关系。