When confronted with an uncomfortable truth, Anna Yang learned the importance of language in connecting to her culture and family.
“What’re you gonna get?”
My family stood at the back of the store, behind the line of customers waiting to order. The seemingly simple question forced hundreds of thoughts through my head as I redirected my attention to the smoothie menu before us.
I was visiting relatives in Beijing for the first time in three years, and I wasn’t yet accustomed to reading Mandarin. My eyes subconsciously drifted to the English column that I usually defaulted to, but I was met with familiar yet foreign characters. My sister, equally as confused, attempted to read out loud. “Apple… something… kiwi?”
In California, being unable to read or speak Chinese was okay. My sister and I would always respond to our parents’ Chinese with English. It was normal to not understand idioms and phrases, because I was a second generation American — only Chinese when celebrating the Lunar New Year and mid-autumn festival.