抛弃历史包袱 拥抱多元文化
Time to abandon cultural baggage and to embrace multiculturalism

编者按:华裔社区不愿意主动接触或是排斥其他族裔人士的态度,或许可以从中国历史中寻根溯源。但是这种态度可能会阻碍华裔社区成员融入加拿大社会。Nancy Jin在本文中写道,现在影视是摆脱昔日阴影,拥抱多元文化的时候了。

Editor's Note: Lacking a willingness to reach out or shutting themselves out from people in other races may find its roots in Chinese history. But that attitude may hinder community members’ ability to integrate into Canadian society. As Nancy Jin writes, it’s time to get rid of shadows past and embrace multiculturalism.


As an immigrant in Canada, English is often the only communication tool when speaking our first language is not an option. But when we engage in a conversation with our hometown peers, we would quickly slide into our mother tongue. Indeed, we speak Chinese easily and naturally as opposed to the difficult and awkwardness of a second language.


As such, indulging in Chinese among Chinese speakers has become a social norm in the community – despite the apparent downside that we lose our opportunity to improve English. However, those who are defiant against the social norm-- in trying to seek every opportunity to speak English—are often hit with backlash. They are often labelled as weird, stupid and snobbish, and may even be outcast by their peers.


Lucy, a top student from China, belongs to the defiant group. When the students in her accounting class are asked to work on a group project, as usual, all the Chinese students formed a group, and the discussion on the project was entirely in their native tongue.


”It’s a Chinese only group -- only and Chinese language only.”  The group members said.”It makes our life much easier… We understand each other better and can help out one another.”


But when Lucy brought a classmate into the group – a male Caucasian who doesn’t speak Chinese--she had rocked the boat as all her group members turned angry towards her.


“You can’t do this to us… We all have to speak English because of him… You have caused us so much hassle and stress!”


When Lucy said the purpose is for everyone to improve English, the resentment wasn’t slightly diminished.


“Are you out of your mind? You are a Chinese no matter what! He is a Gui Lao (foreigner) and he has no right to be in our group!”


Worse yet, she was accused of being a traitor, who had purposely betrayed her own.


The behaviour of Lucy’s group members may underscore the general perception of Chinese international students -- they form in isolated groups and lack a willingness to improve English language skills.


Tom, a Canadian businessman, told me his company’s hiring experience in the past that has baffled him till this day.


According to Tom, a female applicant who came to Canada as an international student responded to a job post from his company. But despite her glorious resume boasting her English proficiency and stating that she graduated from a well-known Canadian university, she showed little verbal English competency during the interview.


“I can’t believe it… How could she possibly graduate from that university – but cannot put together a proper English sentence?” said Tom, shaking his head in disbelief and disappointment.


She probably rarely spoke English at school, or never used English in group discussions. It isn’t surprising at all if she belonged to a group of students who intended to isolate English speakers or wanted to outcast her Chinese peers who were defiant.


However, the attitude -- from lacking a willingness to reach out, to excluding people from other races-- has not only been present among students, but has also existed in the entire community – among all ages and social groups.


As an immigrant in Canada for nearly two decades, I have witnessed the anomaly that those who communicate with a Chinese friend in English are considered snobbish or trying to show off; those who speak English with an accent or broken English are laughed at – despite their own spoken English might be even more broken. Those who make efforts to outreach are often judged as trying to please GuiLao.


The fact that China had virtually remained in isolation for much of its history may help explain why many Chinese people choose to shut themselves out from other races. But the world has changed as history evolves. Today, waves of Chinese people choose to pursue their dreams in foreign soil as China opens up to the world.


Perhaps it is time for us the get rid of our old shadow and abandon the cultural baggage, and to include other races in the adopted country that values multiculturalism.


As for me, I value all the opportunities to practise English, because I believe English is the key to becoming a valued member in society and to establishing a decent life in Canada.


Despite the negative reactions from other community members, I want to take every opportunity to practice English, regardless of how awkward it sounds or how silly I may be.


Note: The story was published in Chinese News in April, 2012.

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