Communication

My mother tongue

My Mother Tongue As an international from a country speaks a language other than English, I found it difficult to speak fluent English on moving to America. This was primarily as a result of the influence of my mother tongue. For example, when we went shopping with my Chinese friends, we could hardly know what to say in English even though we knew exact words in our mother language. It was from such experiences that I realized the significant role played by a person’s mother tongue in daily life, especially for those nonnative speakers in English. I came to learn that one’s native dialect forms a foundation for understanding other languages, but it is also difficult communicate when outside the cultural setting within which it is normally spoken. What’s more, I strongly believe that our cultures, family members, and peers influenced our mother tongue most. My mother tongue is Chinese. Regardless of the language I speak presently, I have spoken Chinese for my whole life. As such, I knew Chinese and English are totally different in some ways. For example, in terms of Though, Chinese grammar said you must have a transition but after words like though/although/even though. However, in English, it doesn’t, it’s wrong if we add but in the sentence. Well, my culture influenced me a lot in that way so that when I first came to United States 3 years ago, I kept making this mistake. Additionally, Chinese culture has one tense, what we did is just simply add a time period before sentence started. For instance, when we want to talk about something in the past, we just add in the past before the whole statement, followed by a comma, making all the succeeding words to be in the past tense. If we need to end that past tense, we simply add another transition word. However, in English, I came to learn that sentences could not be outlined like that. Instead, we should use past tense when talking about something in the past and use the future tense when something is about in the future. To that effect, my Chinese culture has influenced my grammar so much that I sometimes keep making mistakes when differentiating tenses. These examples show that, even though all languages are supposed to make communication between people easy, they can differ based on the cultural environments where they are used. My family and peers were the primary influence to my mother tongue as I grew up. As far as I remember, People who live in Zhejiang Province like me, find it hard to pronounce the letter R in Chinese alphabet. For example, when I say Hot in Chinese which was pronounced Re, I pronounced it like Le. which means Happy and confuses my Mandarin speaking Chinese friends. Even though I am familiar with Mandarin, I mostly speak Zhejiang dialect, since it is the language I grew up speaking and listening as my family members and peers spoke. The difference between these versions of Chinese opened me up to further understanding that, languages can be different even within a national setting that one thought was similar throughout. For example, even though I relate to Chinese as a language that defines my national identity, I still find that I identify even better and more comfortably with Zhejiang dialect. This shows that mother tongue not just defines my language skillset, but also my personal identity and belongingness to an even smaller community. Just like other languages, my mother tongue has changed and continues to do so with passing time and interaction changes like internet communication. The external influence may bring change that people do not expect, but there is something cultural we could follow to maintain ties with our families and peers. For instance, although I do not use my mother tongue in my current learning environment, I still use it in social settings like when spending time with my Chinese friends and when communicating with those back home. Recognizing the importance of my mother tongue has significantly helped me to gain in-depth self-identity and good sense of who I am and where I come from.

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