Being a Chinese-Canadian first generation immigrant is not easy. We often face various types of discrimination and suffer through negative stereotypes. One example: everyone expects us to be smart. Fuck you for putting extra pressure on our academic performance and using us as an excuse for your own incompetence. These kinds of stereotypes are harmful to the harmony of our lives, and are simply untrue. Not every Asian person is smart! I just happen to be one of the smartest people in existence, that’s all. This has nothing to do with my ethnic background or the fact that if my parents had not been the most educated and skilled people in China, they would never have had the chance to migrate to Canada in the first place.
Of course, for most of the discrimination we face daily, we usually have to suck it up and deal with it. But occasionally, being in an English speaking world can make practical things rather difficult. For instance, my “name” is Hattie, but my name is not actually Hattie. Hattie is not on my passport, driver’s licence, or any of the legal documents that prove I exist. You see, I picked the word “Hattie” out of an index of English names in the Chinese-English dictionary that my family owned. It’s a lot more handy to use than my legal first name, which is Xiaodan. My actual initials spell out the number 20 in roman numerals, which is pretty cool, but when both my first and last name start with a letter no one knows how to pronounce, it’s not very useful.
To be fair, I should really blame the communist government of China, who developed the pinyin system to “anglicize” the pronunciation of Chinese characters, and then ran out of sensible consonants to use. I mean, why would you ever want to choose the alphabet of such a horrendous language such as English to make sense of the pronunciation of your language? Blasphemy!
English pronunciation makes no sense. The other day, I was being nice and asked a friend from Concrete Canoe if the “pour” [of concrete] went well. “You mean pour?” a friend asked. I was confused about what he had asked, so I said, “yeah, ‘pour’.” “You meant ‘pour’, but you said ’poor’. As in, ‘poor people poured drinks.’”
My mind was blown, I mean, what? My tongue and vocal cords are not trained to distinguish such obscure differences of sounds! If there was a difference in the pronunciation, the word “pour” should really rhyme with “hour”, “our”, or “flour” to sound like “power”. Instead, it rhymes with “four”. It makes no sense!
I spent several days trying to understand the concept of someone poor, pouring flour out of their four porous flowery hourglasses. Now imagine you’re someone who doesn’t know how to read English. Shit’s fucked up, right?
In my defence, I passed the English Proficiency Test. However, my English completely disintegrated during my 3 years of engineering studies. I even had to ask my housemate one time what the past tense of “flow” was. Turns out, it was “flowed”. I was almost sure it would be “flew”, though I couldn’t remember what verb ending with “ow” had a past tense ending with “ew”. But hey, it makes more sense that flew was the past tense for flow rather then for “fly”. One would guess that the past tense of “fly” was something like “flay”, just like “ly” and “lay”...or are they different verbs? Are they completely the same? Is “ly” really spelled “lie”? I could never tell….
So, anyway. English can suck my dick.
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