Language Barriers and Our Engagement Party

[Legendary Palace in Oakland Chinatown, photo from Flickr user Kevin]

This is a very belated recap of our engagement party on July 4th, which was graciously hosted by my future in-laws at Legendary Palace in Oakland, CA.

I was a little nervous about the whole thing, but am glad that we did it! The boy's Aunt even came up to us after, and told us she enjoyed the party because she got the chance to see a lot of the people who will be at the wedding. Only our immediate families were invited, and there were still 50 people there!

[I didn't get to take any pictures, so my Uncle did the honor. I literally squealed when I saw these and had to get a picture! They are kinda like Chinese donuts, they have red bean paste inside and are covered in a chewy dough with sesame seeds. Normally they are bigger, so these were baby-sized and thus automatically cute.]

[Our future flower girl (my adorable niece!) and my brother-in-law.]

[My parents]

I got a small taste of what my wedding might be like, because honestly, I don't really remember eating because we were walking around and talking to everyone that had come!

[My sister and me in the yellow dress!]

And there sure was a lot of talking.

Which brings me to my post title.

The boy and I are Chinese-American, and although we are both children of immigrants, and the predominant language spoken in both of our extended families is Cantonese, my Cantonese is appallingly bad. And when I say bad, I mean bad, like we visited Hong Kong and I couldn't understand half of what his two-year-old cousin was saying to me while we played dolls.
Hong Kong salespeople who were helping me enunciated and spoke very loudly so I could understand. If it was in English, it'd sound a little like this:
{I bought the movie by the way. And watched it with English subtitles. And yes, I did like the actor.}

I am definitely not proud of knowing so little, and it's always been a huge insecurity for me. I've just never found the time to learn more. I even tried to go to Hong Kong during college to study Chinese art and Cantonese, but the program rejected me. I went to Italy instead.

A lot of the boy's family members don't understand English, including my future father-in-law. All of the sudden, walking around that banquet room, I realized. Shoot. I don't even know how to say "Thank you for coming" or "I'm so happy you came". I can say "Thank you" and I can say "I'm so happy" but that only goes so far when you're being introduced to a great aunt and she's expecting more to come out of your mouth!

I have a year to learn some key phrases to say to our guests, and luckily the boy can help me practice. Thank goodness I don't have to give any thank you speeches in Cantonese (the boy is taking care of that,) otherwise I'd bolt out of that tent from panic.

Does anyone else struggle with a language barrier? Anyone have any Cantonese phrases that might come in handy on the big day?


Rosanna said...

oooh jin dui is my fave!!
ngaw ho hoi sum ley ley do
jieu foo mm do

Mo said...

lol, oh Rosanna, are you still listening to your tapes??
Totally impressed.

I remember "Kumusta ka!" and "Salamat" so next time you'll have to give me a Tagalog refresher. =)

The Professional Bridesmaid said...

Mo, I could give you some tips but with my Chinese-Canadian accent....you might as well be learning from a 'foreigner.' Question: Did you turn bright red like me when you were in HK and some foreigner spoke fluent Mandarin or Cantonese?

Mo said...

I'd love some tips! The boy just told me that saying "thank you very much" should suffice, haha.

I think my face was perpetually flushed on that trip! Especially when I was playing with his adorable cousin and I was just looking at her thinking "You're awfully cute, but I have absolutely no idea what you are saying to me."

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The Professional Bridesmaid said...

The boy is right, saying thank you very much will do. Most people will tell you 'gong hay' (and slip you some lucky money) and you just say thank you in reply. And give them the best smile ever!

I can't believe the boy is doing a speech in Cantonese. I would have nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Story of my life - only instead of Cantonese and Mandarin (the two language I have actually attempted to study), I get to try to figure out Shanghainese (in which there is no instruction book or easy to find translator). Between four languages, there is no mutual tongue. Either Cantonese & English or Mandarin & Shanghainese (between the parents at least)...so just smile and nod.

blushingjoy said...

I find that watching movies really help, even if with English subtitles. And practicing it as much as you can... my Cantonese is probably just as appaling as yours but I find that if I'm forced to speak it for a few days (like when I go back home), I'll get my mojo back.

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