To the American Who Told Me, "Don't Speak Chinese to Your Husband" | Speaking of China

19 Responses

  1. Lucy Woelbern
    Lucy Woelbern January 10, 2017 at 6:15 am | | Reply

    I come from a trilingual family and when my mother spoke another language to her friend/s in public (50’s, 60’s Canada) she was told it was rude to speak another language that other’s couldn’t understand in public in case they were talking about them. It’s kind of like whispering in front of someone else. Maybe that’s what your friend was referring to. I’m trying to give your friend some grace. L

  2. Eileen Huang 黃愛玲
    Eileen Huang 黃愛玲 January 10, 2017 at 7:26 am | | Reply

    Funny, I had similar experience with my husband about speaking Mandarin or Taiwanese. I’m nowhere fluent, but I do try to speak it with my husband. I think maybe some people are so used to being included, and when they’re not, it bugs them.

  3. Miriam
    Miriam January 10, 2017 at 11:05 am | | Reply

    Definitely sounds by someone who was intimidated by your grasp of a second language! Very rude to tell you not to speak Chinese to your husband of all people. You wonder when was the last time they didn’t speak English when on holiday in foreign country – maybe it’s fine to speak in languages that other people don’t understand, as long as that language is English…!

  4. Ryan
    Ryan January 10, 2017 at 12:25 pm | | Reply

    Not a single person in my family has learned a single word of Chinese in the 10+ years my wife and I have been married and here in the US. In fact, when we used to take my mother to Chinese restaurants, she would flip out if either my wife or myself spoke any Chinese to the wait staff at all.

    It is such an English-speaking thing, and I don’t say this without having experienced it, both in the U.S. AND in China: there are half a billion people who think that English is the be-all-end-all language, even though a much steeper percentage of the world speaks some variation of Mandarin or Cantonese. It is a superiority AND inferiority complex. Superior that they speak English (very often poorly), and inferior in not being able to understand any other language. Learn how to understand/speak “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” in as many languages as you can. Others in the world will be impressed. Not Americans, but others… 😉

  5. Kaisa
    Kaisa January 11, 2017 at 12:22 am | | Reply

    Before we moved back to Finland I was sort of afraid of this kind of thing happening. I was worried that we would experience a lot of racist comments, nasty looks or whatever. And I had plans for how to deal with those situations. I thought I would say something like “keep your racist opinions to yourself”, “you don’t have a say on who I choose to be married to”, “I don’t care, please stop talking to me” or something along those lines. (We can be very blunt here sometimes) I was actually sort of looking forward to dealing with stuff like that, thinking I’m all prepared for it.

    But I haven’t had a single encounter or comment like that. Not even from drunks on the subway or on the street. When I speak to my husband in Chinese in public, people might do a double take or just look curious. Sometimes people ask what language we speak and seem to be impressed when I tell them. Maybe it’s also because we live in a part of town that is very international with a lot of immigrants. Or maybe because in Finland we don’t really do small talk. I actually think that might be a big part of it. Talking to a stranger is very rare and if someone I know would say something like that to me, they would be out of my life pretty fast.

    Anyway, if someone would say something stupid like that now, I don’t know how I would react on the spot. Probably just stare at them with my mouth hanging open. I really think that person must have some severe self esteem problems if they are afraid of you talking about them. Or, as you said, maybe they are just jealous 😉

  6. Autumn
    Autumn January 11, 2017 at 12:49 am | | Reply

    Wow. First, who feels entitled to dictate communication in another couple’s marriage? Second, why wouldn’t a person just say, “Hey, I feel left out, when I’m around do you guys mind speaking in English?”

    Oh, right. A person steeped in white privilege, one who believes they have the right to demand that everyone else conform to their culture. Because of course their culture is best.

    Alternatively, a person who deserves to at least be verbally smacked upside the head.

  7. gordon chung
    gordon chung January 11, 2017 at 1:34 am | | Reply

    lets give your friend some benefits of doubt. could it be that Jun Yu speaks english with a heavy accent and that it is hard for people to understand ?? if so, maybe he means that if you speak english to him, he would improve his english. if that is not the case, then your friend’s superiority complex was hurt that you speak chinese instead of the dominant english that most other people speak ????

  8. Cat
    Cat January 11, 2017 at 8:04 pm | | Reply

    Someone was once telling me how rude they thought it was when family/friends/I can’t remember the exact details used a language they didn’t understand around them. They were horrified when I told them I never understand a single conversation my inlaws have around me as they speak to eachother exclusively in Shanghainese (even though I’m learning Mandarin and they can speak Mandarin). But my view is who am I to try to make demands about how they speak to eachother?! They have always spoken to eachother in Shanghainese, they always will. My hope is that as my Mandarin improves they will increasingly use Mandarin when speaking to me (which has already started happening even though my level is still very low). I would never expect that they would stop speaking Shanghainese to eachother. I find that people who try to demand people speak English have invariably never even tried to learn another language themselves.

  9. David
    David January 11, 2017 at 8:39 pm | | Reply

    “I always used to think you were cool and open-minded. You voted for Obama.”

    30% of whites who voted for Obama also voted for Trump, particularly young white women in states such as Indiana and Ohio! Go figure!

  10. David
    David January 11, 2017 at 8:41 pm | | Reply

    “How Mixed Chinese-Western Couples Were Treated A Century Ago”

    And in many parts of the country they are still treated pretty badly, particularly WWAM couples.

  11. David
    David January 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm | | Reply

    Even the most racist people or people who are perceived as racists such as Jeff Sessions have Asian family…and can say “I am not a racist, I have an Asian son-in-law and Asian grandchildren…Obviously, the white side of the family is contaminated at least in the eyes of the southern whites and hence cannot be mentioned by the media…

    So the world is turning upside down. Pretty soon, I am very certain that cats will say bow wow! and dogs will say Meow!! and the mice will say moo! Actually, the creator of Tom and Jerry had an episode in which a futuristic doctor manages to achieve this goal. May be he was thinking of Jeff Sessions!

    So why is anyone surprised that a Obama supporter will says something not very savory. He probably even voted for Trump and supports Jeff Sessions. After all he cannot be racist he has a Chinese son in law! Actually, now that Sessions may not have to run for re-election, his daughter, son-in-law and grand daughters can come out of the closet. No one in Alabama knew about this, did they? And he put a nice show opposing all immigration (his words, including probably spousal immigration).

  12. David
    David January 12, 2017 at 1:33 am | | Reply


    When he was campaigning in racist Alabama he never put his Asian family in display…now suddenly he says how can he be prejudiced, I have several “Asian” grandchildren…

  13. David
    David January 13, 2017 at 8:09 am | | Reply

    As I said in my early post…total dirtbag…

    Never showed off his grandchildren while running for election in Alabama and now he shows up with them. Racists in Alabama are having a field day! He better get confirmed…he will never another election in the racist state of Alabama!

  14. Miku
    Miku October 31, 2017 at 11:47 am | | Reply

    Well said! Bizarre behavior, but not uncommon … I routinely see movies on Netflix now which have been downvoted massively – because they are not in English. I know, because the comments section is full of the vitriol of those apparently shaken to the core by having been confronted with a language they did not speak – in their own country. The horror 々!

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