For those of you with a persuasion for writing and the experience of being a “huen xue er” or person of mixed eastern and western blood…
I am interested in your stories. Specifically growing up in the west and then coming to Taiwan. I’d like to compile a book of your reflections and insight or lack of insight.
I don’t have a publisher, (but I have a few “loose thread” connections), haven’t actually written my story (but it is alive and well in my head!), but today is a good day to start, right?
Please email me if you or anyone you know might be interested in this group writing project. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindycat, could you share some of your experiences here? My two daughters (6 and 4 ) are hun xi er and I could really use some good advice from someone who’s been there. Specifically, how much do I push learning Chinese? They understand a lot, but don’t like to speak it. I’m at the upper intermediate level as their whitey mom and my husband is Taiwanese, but he doesn’t have the patience to sit down and, say, read a book with them in Chinese. So it’s all on me and I work full-time. When I get home I don’t feel like speaking with them in Chinese all the time- maybe an hour would be OK. They don’t like speaking Chinese. They say they just want to be American. As for being treated differently because they are mixed race, everything has been positive so far and everyone is always telling me how beautiful my children are. Sometimes we’ll get a weird comment like when my 6 year old’s classmate says ’ “Christina!!! I had Chinese food!!” PS My husband is stricter than me, and my children associate that with being Chinese and so may be rejecting being Chinese because of that. Ya know what I mean?
My wife is Taiwanese, I am American, so our son is half-and-half. We decided that it would be preferable for him to learn Chinese first. Living in Taipei, we always sent him to the Chinese schools, and he considered himself Chinese. By the latter half of fifth grade, he was “looking for something different” so we found a nice private Christian Academy with 100% English instruction and American curriculum in Nankang District. He has adjusted to that surprisingly well. He is slowly coming to grips with his American-side.
My wife is also fluent in Japanese, but she hasn’t taught him that. Realistically speaking, you really have to be devoted and energetic to learn a language. (It is not just up to the teacher. The student has to work hard.) I can’t blame her for not pushing the Japanese aspect, and at the same time I don’t want her to blame me for not speaking English in the house during all his childhood years.
What we are seeing now in the American school are different ideas of politeness. The Chinese are generally much more polite in a classroom or school environment than Americans are – that is our impression across the board now. On the other hand, the American school has much less homework than Chinese parents would consider reasonable, although in our son’s opinion – that is a big plus.
This topic is of interest to me as well. We have a hun xue baby, our first, and we’d like to know what’s in store for her as she grows older, not only in the states but also when she visits relatives in Taiwan.
Well I guess I will have to wait twenty or so years for the stories of your children; but it is interesting to hear a tidbit from the parents perspective. Makes me wonder if this book/chronicle thing should also include your fears, joy, experiences. Anyway, just to give you a little bitty overview of my world.
My parents met durning the Vietnam war when my father was stationed in Taiwan. My mother had studied English at University and was working as a secretary/translator at the base in Taichung. (sad side note… when I got older I always felt a need to explain that my mom was an educated woman, who came from a traditional chinese family…not a lady of the night bar type… which my mom said were in great number and sleeping around to “get to the states”…of course many of you have probably seen this stereoytpe of the Asian female portrayed in movies (you know the one, broken English, hungry eyes, scantly clad…))
Anyway, I was born! Two years later my sister was born and we took up life in middle america(a not very culturally mixed area I might add). As babies everyone fawned over us…the usual cute baby stuff. It wasn’t till about kindergarten that I noticed I was “different”. I remember in my early school years getting embarrassed whenever we had a social studies lesson that had anything to do with China.
I don’t want to get into this too much. (Hey it’s for the book, right!)
But let me sum up a few things…Force those kids to learn the language! I didn’t start studying (and was not really interested) until I was in college. Took a year off to live in Beijing to get the basics down and am now here trying to get to the level of grade schooler!
It is a bit difficult to write all of my feelings and experiences in this little box…I guess I am better at direct questions… So, the question, how will your child “turn-out”.
Hmmm…my sister and I turned out really well? She’s a medical student and I am a freelance writer. And the way we look ain’t bad either. But it has been an annoyance to hear men say…“Ewwww…your so exotic!!” But a person “turns-out” at many different points or stages in their life. Tomorrow I could be mess, right?
I didn’t like being or looking different from those around me when I was younger (typical of children) but now, I’m just me.
Anyone ever been referred to as a “half-breed,” “genetic imbalance,” or other negative connotations–in Taiwan or a Western country?
I’ve known of many a 20 something in Taiwan whom has literally sworn off ever thinking again that it is still socially acceptable to utter a racial slight or make intentional prejudicial remarks ever again after having experienced being a “white minority” in a yellow majority. “Now I know what a blackman feels like in America” is often the beginning of their personal epiphany. Even that same Chinese chauvanism of ROC Hans can really irk the “Taiwanese” minorities.
after having experienced being a “white >minority” in a yellow majority. “Now I know what >a blackman feels like in America” is often the >beginning of their personal epiphany.
Acutally, if I were African-American, I would be quite offended by this statement. If you think your treatment in Taiwan is anything near how African-American are treated in US, you are really, really NOT getting it. At least you’re beginning to understand…
I never felt that I knew what a Black person feels in America since most of my experiences in Taiwan were positive. CAT, you say to push the Chinese, but a lot of Chinese Americans never have the urge to learn it, right? Why didn’t your mom teach you? Today my daughter said a funny thing- ‘mommy your nose is so big…’(Lovely) My mom said, ‘just you wait- your nose is going to get big too!’ Happy Egg day to all the egg lovers out there. Hope your eggs and noggins didn’t get cracked in the quake!!! =:+)
My mom claims that she didn’t teach us chinese because my father told her that it would “confuse” us. Confuse us on what I don’t know. I think learning chinese is like learning how to play the piano…we hate it when we are forced but maybe we will learn to appreciate it when we grow-up. Maybe you could speak chinese with your husband when your kids are around. In this way they won’t feel that they are being pushed to do something. I do remember hearing chinese as a kid and surprisingly, when I started to study chinese as an adult I knew sentence patterns and some vocabulary. My sister (who has never studied chinese) came to Taiwan to visit me and could follow very simple conversations through her childhood exposure too. It was interesting to watch. Also, maybe let them listen to some children’s song in chinese; they might like it. Maybe their playfriends would enjoy it too.
It is very common for Taiwanese to ask me if I am a “mixed blood” (direct translation) person. It annoys the hell out of me when it is the second or third question someone asks me. It usually comes after I tell them I am American… and they tell me I don’t look American. I usually go into this stupid bit about “American” not being an ethnic group. Or I just ask them what an american looks like.
I know they don’t think the question is rude or racially insensitive, but it an annoyance to the ears.
“American” is a codeword for white in Taiwan. The fact that any white American should begin to feel what a black American has felt is worthy of being called a personal ephinany. Hooray for empathy because then whites can only begin to comprehend the more negative connotations of being black in Taiwan. I found myself repeatedly “defending” my fellow black Americans (or Africans) in Taiwan from the more negative connotations of Chinese chauvanism. If they saw I was not very disturbed by race and emphasized character issues like their Chinese is superior to mine, then the Chinese settled down. Under these circumstances, being “politically correct” is just for the white trash idiots with inbred liberal or racially patronizing attitudes. A stupidity barrier in finding any degree of empathy in the real world of shared civil protections.
CAT, I do mostly speak Mandarin with my husband, and my oldest daughter will tune in every now and then. Like yesterday my husband said he wanted to buy an SUV and I said .“SUV hen hui chi you” . My daughter understood the part “hen hui chi…” so she was tuned in and asked what ‘chi you’ meant. I said ‘chi’ is ‘eat’ and ‘you’ is gas. SUVs are big cars the ‘eat’ a lot of gas. Then she got it. So there is hope.
just thought I’d give my penny’s worth because I am a bilingual child. My parents speak languages which are not related to each other in any way, and they taught me both languages at the same time since I was born. I am fully bilingual and don’t “think” in either one of the languages, but more in a “symbolic” non-language, if you catch my drift.
Teach your kids both languages - they will be very thankful for it later on in life.
Here’s something that I doubt anyone will be able to relate, but I wonder if the Asian/white person gets the same flack here as a black/white person does in America. While little sister (we have a black mother and her father is white) was accepted by both groups, she was treated worse by the minorities than by whites surprisingly. I see the Asian/white kids at my buxiban being picked on by the Taiwanese kids more than even the foreigners even though these kids are bilingual and in most cases on par with their English as their non-white peers. It’s something that the parent who is in the majority never thinks about. I remember my stepfather being appalled that someone would not like me or my little sister when he adored us, but it was something that he never experienced growing up. A friend of mine is engaged to an Algerian that she met while living in France. When he visited her in the US people made comments about him and his hair until they heard him speak with a French accent then they fell all over themselves over him. She freaked out because she had never seen racism happen to someone she loved. She worries how their kids will be treated. I think that shock of racism is a lot harder on the majority parent because after growing up without seeing that it’s a huge jaw-dropper. The minority parent who may have seen it all his or her life is more accustomed to it. Interracial dating and marriage is wonderful, but I think sometimes the people involved forget that while they are not hung up on race or ethnicity, there are idiots out there who are and the sooner they realize it, the stronger their relationship will be when they have to face it head on.
Just my NT$0.70.
I hope to bring another demension to the forum. I being half hispanic, half white even in multicultral LA has its draw backs. First being that, I never mastered Spanish so I speak like a 3 year old. In fact, even though I have a strong affinity for Hispanic culture I really never am accepted by poeple of that culture. In fact most people think that I am a white guy an I pretty much consider myself white, having an Anglo-Saxon surnae doesn’t help much either. But I am not giving up, I am improving my Spanish an already stuided much of Spanish literature and history.
it’s very easy to learn languages when your little, but do not force your children to do so. just speak both languages at home, so they understand both of them. they might even start to speak both languages. i have a lot of hunxue friends who really really regret of not having learned chinese, when they were kids and when starting to explore their other identity, they have a hard time learning the language…
kids don’t really get confused, i know some who grew up trilingual. they did mix up the languages in the beginning, but managed very well, when they grew older…so don’t worry about your kid getting confused or something…
I think Michele’s right. My Chinese professor (who’s originally from Germany) has a Chinese wife. At home his son speaks German with him, Chinese with his mother, and of course English at school. He’s not confused at all.
CAT’s father’s excuse was well, just an excuse.
Here’s just a little more “food for thought” on children of “mixed” marriages and languages. Although not a “Half Chinese/Half Western” example, this might be of some interest to this forum. My sister, an American, is married to a man from Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Curacao is a Dutch island in the Carribbean. So, the official language is Dutch. There is also a native language that the local people speak called Papiamento. My brother-in-law’s parents are also a “mixed” couple. His father speaks Portuguese and his mother speaks Spanish. My sister has three children (a fourth on the way) under the age of 6 and they can ALL speak 5 different languages and differentiate between them. In other words, if they are speaking to their grandmother (Spanish), their grandfather (Portuguese), their mother (English), in school (Dutch), their father (any of the above) and the local people (Papiamento). The only classes that they take are in Dutch, for the school system/island uses Dutch as its official language. I find this TRULY amazing. So, I guess what I’d like to say is if you have children from a bi-cultural, bi-lingual family, EXPOSE them to those languages and culture at as early an age as possible. With the world getting “smaller”, it can only be a benifit in the long run.