Mandy’s language biography – A Chinese girl and her Latin languages

Shengwen Xu

I was born in the Southern part of China. I speak a major dialect in China, Cantonese, with my families and of course, Mandarin, which is a mandatory subject for all Chinese students. Although Cantonese is only a regional dialect in China, its influence and exchange with other language is related to the immigration history. Most of the early Chinese immigrants in English-speaking countries like the US, Canada, the UK, etc. are from the southern provinces of China, thus bringing the language of Cantonese to the world. Now familiar English words like Dim Sum, Wonton, Wok, Chow Mien, mostly words of food, come from Cantonese instead of Mandarin.

My second language, English learning began at my primary school. Like many Chinese students, my English learning, generally speaking, was quite exam-oriented and focused much on reading or writing rather than listening and speaking. But this new language, English, triggered my interest in language learning. I began to wonder: what are the comparative features between these two languages? where are the differences lying when people learn these two distinctive languages? English is an inflecting language while Chinese is an isolating language and therefore I can notice methods adopted to teach these two languages are different.

When I entered university, I learned a new Latin language, Spanish, which opened a brand new world for me to get to know the passionate cultures of Spain and Latin-American countries. However, the conjugations and declinations in Spanish were more difficult than those in English, therefore, it took me quite a while to get accustomed to change every noun, verb and adjective into appropriate masculine and feminine forms. As I was learning two Latin languages, I began to pay more attention to the common linguistic features in these languages and to explore if these discoveries were of some help in the language learning process and the language teaching process.

Later, during my stay in Spain, I was able to get in touch with a new language, Latin. Although it was not an in-depth study of the Latin language, but it did give me a broader picture of Latin languages and Indo-European languages. Also I get to know more about the stems in English and Spanish. For example, many words which do not look alike are actually from the same Latin word. One example can be enero in Spanish, Janeiro in Portuguese and January in English, which are all from the same Latin word, Januarius.

When I arrived in Montreal, I got to know the fourth Latin language for me, French. This bilingual environment is fascinating for me, and also many languages coexist in this society. I am looking forward to enter the glamorous French world and experience the charm of French.


One thought on “Mandy’s language biography – A Chinese girl and her Latin languages”

  1. Sihong Chen: Hi Mandy, thank you for sharing your language experience with us. I am impressed with your language biography. You mastered so many languages. For me, I can only speak Mandarin, English and a little French. Since you are learning French now, I want to ask if how you feel about learning it? Also, you mentioned you have been to Spain so I want to ask your feeling of living and studying Spain. I never been to any European countries and I only stayed in the US for a semester. So I am curious about the life in a country whose official language is not English which has already been considered as lingua franca in the world. How did you feel about that?


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