One day, Mummy came home and announced: from then on, we will only speak Mandarin at home (and English, of course). No longer will we speak Teochew, the language of our dialect group. Up to that time, Teochew was the only language I knew, so imagine my trepidation upon receiving this news. What was I going to use then?
Still, being only 4 year old, adapting to the new languages was quite an effortless process for me. Without remembering how it happened, Mandarin and English completely replaced Teochew in my thoughts and expression. I hardly understood the dialect now.
If only it were as easy for the older generations.
A few days ago, V and I had breakfast at a coffee shop, sharing a table with an old man. He spoke only Teochew, and when V was able to respond in his dialect, his delight was palpable. Though there was so little in common to talk about, he couldn't stop chattering. He told us he was 9 when the Japanese occupation took place, and his former job as a noodle seller. How lonely it must be to wander around a city where few speak your language, even though it is your home.
Am very glad that this Chinese New Year, there are gifts prepared for this pioneer generation, who have lost so much as our country progressed, from the primitive village to today's metropolitan city.