Why are we not good at English?

Liting Liu

When Alison brought up the language loyalty concept in class, I finally found the appropriate word to explain the reason why I cannot help blurting out Chinese to foreigners. I joined a workshop this Tuesday, sitting next to a foreign girl. While I was replying a message on the phone, she accidentally knocked my bottle down and then said sorry. Without a second thought, I responded “Mei Shi” (No problem in Chinese.) The confusion on her face reminded me that I was speaking Chinese to a foreigner. The same situation also happened in my workplace once. There was a somewhat urgent thing I need to report to my manager who is Irish. I went downstairs hurriedly and started describing the thing in Chinese. Not until he called me Veronica that I realized whom I was talking to. Luckily, such phenomenon doesn’t happen a lot. However, the subconscious inclination to speak Chinese rather than English used to be something I asked my students to resist within our immersion classroom. Interestingly, outside of the classroom it happens to me as well especially when my mind is occupied with something else so that no extra attention could be allocated to language processing. Maybe we are all too “loyal” to our mother tongue deep down. We feel like using L1 could express our emotion more accurately with ease. Therefore, L1 is always a prioritized option in our language production.

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