Welcome to The Everyday Language Podcast episode 23. Today, I’m talking to Jessica, a language learning enthusiast and also a British Born Chinese (BBC) person like myself. We talk about growing up in the UK as a British Chinese person and our interests in languages.
Vocabulary and Expressions
heritage – by birth; ancestry.
building society – a financial institution that is a mutual organization for its members and offers banking and related financial services especially with regard to buying homes and mortgage lending.
takeaway – a food establishment that only makes food for takeaway. Customers cannot eat at the premises.
upbringing – how someone was raised and grew up.
greasy spoon – slang for café.
BBC – abbreviation of British Born Chinese.
ABC – abbreviation of American Born Chinese.
Brum – shortened slang form of Birmingham.
to drag – to take someone somewhere they don’t want to go.
E.g. Mum dragged me to the supermarket.
what the hell is going on here? – phrase that expresses shock at a situation.
to be rubbish – to be bad (at something).
to hold a drink – to be able to drink lots of alcohol.
so bizarre – so weird; so strange
it’s a real big deal – an important thing; a serious thing; considered great.
provinces (China) prefectures (Japan) county (UK) state (USA)
megacity – a megacity is usually defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of ten million people.
to be on the back burner – to be put aside for a while, so other things can be worked on.
Mark: What’s your background? Where did you go up? And where are you from? Kind of stuff.
Jessica: Oh yeah, yeah so firstly my name is Jessica, and I’m of Chinese heritage, but my parents they were born in India, and my grandparents… and my two sets of grandparents, they are from China, but I was born and I grew up in England, yeah so it was a bit of a, bit of a mix, yeah.
Mark: Wow. K.
Jessica: What about yourself?
Mark: Me, er, yeah, I grew up in the UK, in Essex, er and then my mum and dad are, are from Malaysia, and then both parents, are from, well both their…gran-my grandparents are from Fujian 福建.
Mark: Yeah, so, where did you grow up in the UK?
Jessica: Oh, oh sorry, yeah I grew up in North Yorkshire, so a little town nearish, nearish Leeds.
Mark: Okay, what’s it called?
Jessica: Yeah, quite, quite a small town,
Mark: Skipton! You’re from Skipton! Oh right.
Jessica: You’ve heard of Skipton?
Mark: They’ve got a building society or a bank or something,
Jessica: Haha, yeah, that’s what it’s most known for the building society, and what is it? Oh yeah it was recently voted as the most happiest… as the happiest place in the UK.
Mark: Oh that was Skipton,
J: Yeah, I think so.
M: I read about an article about that, ha.
Jessica: Yeah, I was like, oh my god, Skipton…
Mark: Oh yeah what else…
Jessica: Cool, so did you …how was it growing up in Essex? I’ve never been to Essex before actually.
Mark: Well I’m not, haha, I’m one of those people that’s not that fond of home, of my hometown, so, like it was…in terms of like, erm, Chinese stuff, it’s like, basically all white people when I was growing up, you know, er… yeah, like in the house obviously, stuff was Chinese, like food and… well the weird thing about my language is…or my families is ’cause my parents are from my mum speaks Fuzhou Hua 福州話 and my dad speaks Hokkien 福建話 and um, so they-they’re common language was English in the house.
and then you know most Chinese in the UK are from Hong Kong, I guess, or used to be anyway, so even if we did meet people like maybe there was a couple of other Chinese families in this-where I grew up, in Clacton or Colchester, there was, like, no school or anything like, [Chinese] Sunday School.
Jessica: Mmm, yeah, cool, yeah I’m similar-ish background I guess because my, my family we would mainly speak English because my, my parents they, yeah, they were from India so they could speak English and Hindi, and erm Hakka, my dad is Hakka 客家話, so he spoke Hakka, my mum spoke Cantonese 廣東話.
Mark: Oh wow.
Jessica: But our main language at home was English, yeah my parents would sometimes, well like, day to day stuff we would speak in Cantonese, so I picked up, like, daily, like I can, what’s it? Yeah I picked up daily Cantonese, it’s my, I can get by, in Cantonese, that’s it, but, but yeah mainly English, so yeah,
So what did your family do? Because most, most BBC, erm, yeah, most BBC’s they have a restaurant, right? Or a takeaway.
Mark: Yeah, well that happened, er, my mum, my mum was a nurse.
Jessica: Ah cool.
Mark: Yeah, and then my dad was doing-working in a bank, I guess.
Jessica: Ah, I see, I see, yeah, you have a different sort of upbringing then.
Mark: Yeah, then when I was like a teenager, like 12, 13 years old.
.Jessica: Right ah huh,
Mark: My mum opened a cafe like, but it wasn’t a takeaway, it was like a greasy spoon. And,
Jessica: Oh really oh cool.
Mark: Yeah it was good training because I learnt how to cook in that place and then she did through some Chinese meals, as well, kind of thing, but…
Mark: Yeah later, so I went to university in Sheffield, yeah, like, I don’t know if you know Sheffield?
Jessica: Er, I’ve been to Sheffield a couple of times, but I don’t know it very well.
Mark: All right, yeah they’ve got big Chinese community there I found out, erm like local kind of British Chin-BBC (British Born Chinese) Chinese people,
Mark: And then I went to, I started going to Chinese school on Sunday.
Mark: The thing is it was all Cantonese which is not that related to who I am or my family,
Jessica: Yeah, yeah
Mark: So I kind of dropped out.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark: I mean it was really cool just to be part of that community, I felt, at the time.
Jessica: Ah, ah, I see, it’s pretty cool, yeah, so…yeah, I met most of my Chinese or BBC friends when I was in university, as well, so I went to Birmingham University.
Mark: Oh right, you went to Brum? Mmm.
Jessica: Yeah… yeah good old Brum, yeah, there’s loads of Chinese people there. Erm, I don’t know, did you ever go to any Chinese parties? Stuff like that?
Mark: There was one horrendous one like once, er, like at that tim-university time I was undergraduate I was trying to find my Chinese identity, kind of thing.
Jessica: Uh huh,
Mark: Yeah so I was part of this community, and then as some mates from the Chinese school they took me to, like, New Year’s party or something.
Mark: And I dragged my friend he’s not like [a Chinese], [he was a] white guy from Sheffield, and he was like, what the hell is going on here? Because, like no-one…do you know like, well the people I went to university with they were all, the Chinese community were rubbish at drinking, rubbish, like couldn’t hold a drink at all,
Mark: So by like 11pm -11:30pm, seriously the whole bar, they’d hired a pub they were all throwing up everywhere.
Jessica: Really! Wow, Yeah, yeah, yeah, we don’t hold our drink very well apparently, yeah I remember the first time it was, completely, like I thought it was so bizarre, just like loads of Chinese people like, in a club or something, or in a bar, and nobody was dancing nobody dancing there were just at the side watching people, like, oh my god, so weird, er, yeah, but it was still fun, anyway, it was just yeah, yeah, it was cool, it was cool.
Mark: Umm, ok, and then I need to ask you like it’s not on the list, but how come you’re in China? What are you doing in China now?
Jessica: Oh erm, well, my, several reasons, well I guess my main reason is because my boyfriend lives here, so.
Mark: Oh right wow.
Jessica: Yeah, so my boyfriend, he’s from Kazakhstan, and we met like, eight years ago in Shenzhen.
Mark: Oh wow.
Jessica: So yeah, that’s probably my main reason, the second reason is probably like you, maybe, I like traveling, yeah, so I like, I like exploring new cultures, and China is a culture that I should be familiar with, yeah, since I am of Chinese heritage, so yeah I came here to learn more about my Chinese side and to improve my Chinese.
Erm…yeah so I think this is like China cos I’m in Shenzhen, so Hong Kong is like a good, good place to be so I can use this, place, I can use Hong Kong and go to other places, around in Asia, yeah,
M: Yeah, yeah.
J: what about why are you? Why are you in Japan?
Mark: Er, yeah, so because my wife is Japanese, that’s I guess that’s the main reason,
J: Ah cool.
M: Yeah we met in University I was doing a masters, she was doing a PhD and then she…
Jessica: Ahh, that’s cool.
Mark: And She got a job offer to come back to her hometown, and that’s quite rare I think because in Japanese terms she lives in a small place, so there’s not many jobs around here, er, and because I’m… my job in England is a nurse, you can come, kind of, come and go,
so yeah and I, like you I wanted to live abroad and find out, well a bit about, yeah, a different way of life, I guess, and well near to Chin[a], I’m into Chinese stuff, and I wasn’t like one of those people that was crazy about Japanese stuff.
Mark: I have kind of learnt now that, yeah things are kind of… they’re really nice here.
Mark: So, yeah, yeah, so I’ve started to appreciate it more,
Jessica; Oh I see, so you didn’t grow up watching anime or reading manga?
Mark: Nah, I wasn’t one of those people, I mean, kind of knew about it, but I wasn’t, er, yeah…and then since coming here, kind of discover, that it’s a real big deal, and that, yeah.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, cool I really want to go to Japan and, yeah that’s cool, so you can speak Japanese, then right? I assume.
Mark: Yeah well, day to day, I can do the day to day stuff, I guess, erm, yeah you know, still slow at everything, and you know slow at reading, but I, I’ve started to read which helps.
Jessica: Ah that’s good, that’s cool, that’s cool, that’s like one of my dreams is to go to Japan and study Japanese. Erm, but I am, or I was one of those people really interested in Japanese culture, yeah that was me.
Mark: Yeah, definitely, like if you, yeah, it’s a good, good time to come I think, and erm, yeah, there’s like, I guess, you know, with the internet and stuff there is so much you can do online anyway.
Jessica: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
Mark: Um, um, okay, so getting back to the questions, where are we now? Okay, so you learnt Chinese at home? How did you do that?
Jessica: Er, yeah, that’s a bit, bit of a difficult question, I, I didn’t really because Cantonese, you went you went to Chinese school yeah? So erm, spoken Cantonese and written Cantonese are completely different, yeah so I learnt, and my parents are not, I wouldn’t call like I wouldn’t say my mum’s Cantonese is like, I wouldn’t say Cantonese is her, her first language.
Jessica: If you know what I mean?
Mark: Yeah, yeah.
Jessica: So I understood, erm, basic Cantonese and I could talk day to day stuff in Cantonese, but if you were to ask me to have a conversation in Cantonese that would be a different story, yeah, but I did study Cantonese for a bit so my Cantonese is definitely a lot better than before, erm, but yeah not, not, not, not anything to [write home about], er, you know, yeah not that good really.
Mark: So if you’re in, you’re in Shenzhen now? So what’s the daily lang-[uage] there is it Cantonese? Or is it Mandarin?
Jessica: Actually, because there are so many so many people from, from different provinces that work in Shenzhen, so Mandarin is probably the language that, that you’ll hear on the streets
J: but, yeah, natives, like locals Shenzhen people then yeah they would use Cantonese.
Mark: Hmm, yeah what’s the feeling like being there? Because it’s like this megacity, isn’t it, now?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah this is a huge, huge modern city and it’s crazy around here, like every month you’ll hear about some new shopping mall being built, yeah I’m probably exaggerating a bit, but it’s something like that yeah, but yeah it’s really cool living here, I actually didn’t, I used to, didn’t really like it here because it’s way too modern, erm, but it has slowly grown on me,
J: Yeah, slowly grown on me.
Mark: Is it easy to live? Like
is [are –my bad!] things convenient?
Jessica: Yeah, super-convenient, generally living in China nowadays is really easy in terms of, erm, their technology and the apps and you don’t need to leave your room sometimes you can just do everything online.
J: You know like Taobao and, er you know, Alipay and stuff like that, you can just do online, so it’s quite easy living here. So did you pick up any Fujian Hua (language)? Or any Hokkien?
Mark: No it’s like, this is a story as well, so I’ve got some family in Singapore.
Mark: And basically my uncle said, you know, learn Mandarin first because Fuzhou Hua is too, too complicated, there’s too many tones…
Mark: So if you have a basis of Mandarin and then, then you can learn it, and so yeah, I, I went to Taiwan in 2013 and er, learnt, tried to learn Mandarin for nine months, so got some basics I think, er, and then I came to Japan so, Mandarin’s kind of been on the back burner, kind of.
Jessica: Oh I see.
Mark: Erm, but in that time I learnt how to learn, as well, so,
Jessica: That’s a good thing,
Mark: So, I think now I’m kind of okay with Japanese, soon-ish I can go back to Chinese and it should be much faster, hopefully.
Mark: You know, I know what works in terms of methods and how I like to learn.
Jessica: Ah yeah, definitely.
Mark: Mmm, er, yeah, I can’t wait until that time because I kind of love, I loved living in Taiwan, it’s amazing, Erm, yeah, yeah, you know, with languages it’s such a big thing, you feel like… with Japanese I think, I’m okay now but then you realise, no, you’re not okay. You know you want to study more?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, yeah it’s like a mountain,
Jessica: You think, you think, you’re at the top then you still, the peak is still there.
Mark: Thank you for listening if you have any questions or comments please leave me a comment in the comments section on the website everydaylanguage.net and I’ll be happy to get back to you. See you next time! Bye!
Intro music Happy by Setuniman, see his work on Pond5.com Royalty free licence
Outro music: Accordion Improvisation song by Tristan Lohengrin (CC attribution licence)
Photo by 童 彤 on Unsplash
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