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A Study on Bilingualism.

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Felix Chow October 2001 Sha Tin College A Study on Bilingualism: I am a Banana It was only recently that I first heard the nickname of 'Banana'. It came up during a discussion with some friends. 'Banana', what does it mean when you are called a banana? Does it mean you are tall and skinny? Or, does it mean you have a crooked back? It was only later that I found out what it truly means: 'yellow on the outside, white on the inside.' 'Banana' is a term used to describe people who are born as 'yellow skinned' Asians, and speak English, which is considered as 'white peoples'' language. I am a 'Banana'. I am a Chinese who can speak both Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) and English. I am bilingual. Born in Canada, I was brought to Hong Kong straight after birth. I lived there, and having a Canadian passport, my parents taught me both Cantonese and English. Though their English is not very good, they managed to teach me the basics. ...read more.


Living in a bilingual society also causes bilingualism. Places in Canada, where they speak French and English, are one of such societies. In my case, my bilingualism is caused by two of the three ways. Though I was born in Canada, I did not live there for long, so moving to Hong Kong did not cause my bilingualism. I am bilingual because I live in Hong Kong, where both English and Cantonese are both used quite often, and because I am in an English school, and speak Cantonese with my parents. It is normal for multilingual people to use different languages in different occasions and to different groups of people. Bilinguals change languages "...depending on the type of person addressed ... and on location or social setting," from The Encyclopedia of Language. I use different languages with different things I do, one that is expected from me at that particular environment. This allows me to fit in, and be part of the group. However, there are "...many cases when a bilingual talks to another bilingual...and yet changes from one language to another in the course of the conversation," which in the case of 'Bananas', is 'Chinglish'. ...read more.


This impression may not be true, but it will influence how they treat you. The Language Encyclopedia also states "More than anything, language shows we 'belong'". So does this mean I 'belong' to both an English and a Cantonese group? Or am I between the two? I belong to all three. I have noticed a difference in treatment when I use different languages. When I was having a conversation with my brother in Cantonese in a train, other passengers treated us as a part of a whole. They did not pay particular attention to us. We got onto another train and start a conversation in English. Instantly, other passengers begin to pay attention to us, giving us looks and short glances, as if we were alien. This small experiment shows I can change the where I belong, simply by turning on and off languages. As a conclusion, I think being a 'Banana' is quite special. Since I know one more language than a monolingual, I have advantages over half the world. I can also switch who I am by changing languages. It is part of me to be able to speak English and Cantonese. I am proud to be a 'Banana'. I am proud to be a normal person. ...read more.

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