When we are home, the language we speak may come naturally to us. Or not. Depending on who we’re talking to at home, we may switch between speaking multiple languages and that can either be easy, or a bit of an effort.
I was born in Australia, and English is the main language of instruction in this country. It is my first language and that was what I spoke to my teachers and classmates at school. But behind closed doors back then and up until today, I speak a mixture of English, broken English and broken Cantonese; Cantonese is my Chinese-Malaysian parents’ first language.
Behind each door can be one or many languages spoken.
It can be tricky defining “first language” and “mother tongue”. In general, the terms refer to the language(s) we speak at home, and/or the languages spoken by family. As there are more diverse families around and we get opportunities to live in different places, it’s becoming more common for many of us to speak more than one language at home.
For some of us stereotypical Asians, showing physical affection and love doesn’t come easy. For some of us stereotypical Asians, expressing one-on-one intimacy like holding hands, hugging and kissing someone who matters to us feels hard or doesn’t cross our minds often.
All throughout school in Malaysia and Singapore, my Chinese-Malaysian parents wagged the finger at dating and romantic escapades. Physical contact with any classmate whom I fancied was frowned upon. Part of me resented this, part of me didn’t.
Fighting over paying the bill for meals is something some of us are guilty of. If we’re the stereotypical Asian eating with other stereotypical Asians, coming out on tops to pay for a meal is often a big battle, sort of a sport in itself.
This is the case with my Chinese family. When I was a kid living in Malaysia, we had countless family gatherings with extended relatives. We’d have dinner at air-conditioned Chinese restaurants where waiters gave us clean plates after each serving. These nights always ended with lots of yelling, relatives arguing at the top of their lungs as to who would pay for the ten-course meals in cash.
In Chinese culture (and other Asian cultures), offering to pay the bill at the end of a meal out is regarded as polite. This goes for family and business-related dining affairs, and no matter the occasion, bill fights are usually amusing.
When it comes to talking about our national animal, Australians have different opinions on this. Australia has never formally proclaimed or adopted an official animal. Some animals seem to hold more significance towards our country than others and some even are emblems, while others simply popular in general with Australians.
Often we think of a national animal as an animal widely recognisable throughout a country. It can be an animal the majority of a country is familiar with. Some national animals around the world include: the markhor (wild goat) in Pakistan, the giant panda in China and since the 1300s, the unicorn in Scotland.
I have vivid memories of animals being a considerable part of my life growing up in Australia. As a kid, I always looked forward to trips to the zoo. Perked up seeing Big Bird on Sesame Street in the evenings on TV. As part of my collection of stuffed toys, my parents insisted there was a kangaroo and a koala – both long thought of as unofficial animals of Australia.
Some say yes and some say no to a new Australian flag. There are countless arguments for and against this discussion, especially when Australia Day comes around each year and Australians reflect on what our country and flag mean to us.
Our current flag was chosen through a national competition in 1901. 32,823 entries were submitted and a panel of judges declared five entrants who presented similar designs as the winners. That was a while ago. As someone who is lucky to live in an Australia in a time where there are world class facilities and a multicultural population, sometimes I wonder: does our current flag truly represent Australia today?