Yesterday reminded me just how glad I am that I don’t speak Mandarin, or hardly any other dialect of the Chinese language for that matter. A raucous cacophony is what the language is, to borrow a literary term I’ve never had the chance to use. I’m sure I’d appreciate the language, if only I knew what was being said half the time, but one can’t deny that it is ear-splitting and headache-inducing when spewed out in an entire belt that just never stops.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my roommate Jenny to death and am proud as hell that I’m Chinese, but sometimes, I just can’t help but cringe at the way my supposed mother tongue sounds. I thought I was going to go mad listening to Jenny converse in her fluent Mandarin with Jean, her friend who came down from Kampar to stay with us for three days over the weekend. They’re both sweethearts and I have nothing against them whatsoever; in fact, I enjoy having Jean coming over because she is simply that pleasant a girl to have around. She’s this sweet perpetually smiling little darling with the deepest dimple in her cheek and bangs that highlights and brings out the most inquisitive and sparkling eyes I’ve ever seen on anyone. But the ruckus that is their conversation that goes on deep into the night till the wee hours of the morning will one day be the death of me.
It’s not just them when it comes to this grudge I have against the language. I avoid like a plague anyone and everyone who seems likely to purge forth a speech in Chinese at the speed of a bullet train. It’s honestly not a personal offense that I hold towards any particular person.
The language in all its sordid tongue action simply rings too loud and hollers too unrefined in my ears; raunchy; rhythmless; patternless. It is quick, it is loud, it is, simply, unbeautiful. It is not like the quiet lilting romance the French whisper everyday, or the gentle refinement of the American South. Chinese, to me, sounds pedestrian. Public. Chaotic and frenzied.
They remind me everyday of this fat lady canteen operator we once had back in high school, who would shout forth the total amount of money we owed her for her little bowls of Prawn Noodles or Yam Cakes, sending airborne sprays of her saliva while at it. At that I can’t help but cringe, too.
They say to never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. I like to think that I’ve walked more than a mile with Jenny in all my year and a half of staying with her, and I not only have worn her shoes on several occasions but know each and every pair she owns right down to the smallest detailed stitchings on them, so I can say whatever the fuck I please.
The battle between the Chinese language and I have still a long way to go before either of us see the end, one that even as I write this I know will not be a pretty nor peaceful one.