Most people in my family speak both. But they just spoke one language at first, then learned the other language later. They never mix them up in the same sentence but they sometimes alternated sentences in separate languages. They’d use 2 or 3 if you count English as well to speak to me but they’d finish a full sentence in one language before using another one.

I learned both Mandarin and Cantonese at the same time. For some reason I never could separate them well. I do the same as my family, speaking all 3 languages. However, I have an extra quirk. In the SAME sentence I could speak Mandarin and Cantonese. Though I never mixed English and Chinese in the same sentence. No one really cared, at least they understood me. But my parents told me I did separate them when I was little and never mixed them up but after a while I somehow kept speaking them all mixed together, and it still continues.

However, I’ve been living in Hong Kong for over 5 years. Whenever I talk people think I’m strange because I keep speaking Mandarin and Cantonese in the same sentence wherever I go. Some get confused at what I’m saying but I get responses in both Cantonese and Mandarin, sometimes both. Anyway so I spoke English instead sometimes, but sometimes it resulted in communication problems because they didn’t understand or couldn’t speak English well so I went back to speaking Mandarin and Cantonese.

I don’t know why but I can’t seem to separate the two languages. I never mix up English but English is completely different from Chinese so that’s a lot more of a difference.

I’m not sure what is it with the spoken part of the languages. I learned both traditional and simplified character at the same time too. My parents say I kept writing both forms mixed together when I was little. I remember that well, sort of because it had continued later on as well. But then somehow I managed to separate them and you’d never find my writing with both character types anymore, it’s either all simplified or all traditional.

Can anyone help? My family tells me who knows why I’m like that and that I’m just weird.

By the way, I never mix up Chinese with English, you’d never find me speaking English and Chinese in the same sentence. But then English is completely different from Chinese so that’s a lot more of a difference.

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Filed under: Mandarin Written and Spoken