Sunday, May 8, 2011

Missing Mother

A moving essay by author Jean Kwok.
I was moved to write this book because of my mother. I wanted to tell her story, and that of many other first-generation immigrants. My mother never really learned to speak English, although she tried her best, and to Americans she comes across as very simple. I wanted people to hear how eloquent, wise and funny she really was in Chinese.


J.K. Baltzersen said...

Why must we, madam, so often hear about people "speaking Chinese?" It is a written language only. The oral languages are Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.

As the author and her mother were from Hong Kong, I am a bit surprised at the missing English proficiency. On second thought, however, I am not surprised that there are/were communities in Hong Kong where they did not learn what was for a long time the official language.

I assume their mother tongue is Cantonese, which is the language of Hong Kong, Macau, and surrounding areas. Why can't she write that then? Again, Chinese is a written language only.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day, madam, although over here we have it about three months earlier.

elena maria vidal said...

Mr. B, Jean Kwok is a friend of mine and a very well educated lady who went through a great deal as a child. Did you read the entire article? You seem to forget that the author is writing for Americans, many of whom do not know about such things. Most people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese but many do not speak English, especially if they were born in China and came to Hong Kong escaping the Communists. Madame Kwok's family came to the USA to get away from the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong and suffered great misfortunes. Please exercise a little compassion before being so quick to criticize.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Dear Madam:

I am sorry if my first comment sounded very negative.

Yes, I did read the article. And yes, I am aware that a lot of people have been through much hardship fleeing from oppressive regimes. I am sorry if my comment was offensive.

I do tend to be nitpicky about words, and "speaking Chinese" is something we hear here in Norway as well, and I never get used to it.

My comment about Hong Kong Chinese not speaking English was not meant negative.

I hope both you and Mrs. Jean Kwok have a wonderful Mother's Day with your respective children.

Julygirl said...

I was just telling my granddaughter that the secret to true happiness is to find the beauty and joy in life and in people. Many people seem to think the way to show their intelligence is to be smug and critical.

I was inspired by Jean Kwok's mother and her resilience and positive outlook in facing and triumphing over the odds.