Diary – Day 6 // He looks Chinese but he doesn’t understand?

Funny thing is I thought it would be so easy to find people in Malaysia to practice my Mandarin with. 40 % of the population is Chinese, so I would bump into them, right?

I did bump into them. I saw Chinese faces everywhere but when they started talking, I didn’t understand a word, even if a lot of it sounded like Mandarin.


After today’s taxi drive, I realised this is just because mostly locals don’t use Mandarin in their daily speaking. Why? Everyone are Chinese heritage, right? Yeah, but the thing is that these people have moved over from the Guangdong province in the south of China. The main language in Guangdong has always been Cantonese which means that at the time, when the Chinese from Guangdong went overseas, they were still using their own language or different other dialects from southern China in their daily conversations.

Mandarin wasn’t made the official language of China before many decades later when Mao Zedong from the northern China came into the picture. People in China still speak Cantonese or other local dialects in their small hometowns but when they start their education, they are taught in Mandarin and because of people moving around the big country, Mandarin is the main language spoken.


In Malaysia, it’s another story. The Chinese families here have been talking Cantonese to each other at home, but only learned Mandarin as a foreign language after both English and Malay which are more important languages in Malaysia, mostly because the country is such a big mix of so many different cultures; as a local, it would be better to be able to interact with both the Malay Indian hair dresser, the Malay Chinese boos or the Malay Malay waiter.

So I learned by now that even if the person looks Chinese, he/she probably aren’t fluent in Mandarin just as it is in China. Even though, I still take the hat off in respect for the taxi driver, his children and all the other Malaysian Chinese people who have been studying Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Malay and other Chinese dialects since they started studying at all (Almost as hardcore as a Danish person speaking Danish, English, German and Mandarin haha).

xx lingling

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