On being Chinese American...

We're trying to raise Isaac bilingual. When my family first immigrated to the US in 1984, my parents made the decision of speaking only Chinese at home. They valued us keeping our language, knowing that our ability to speak would keep open the access to family and culture.

Bryan is beyond supportive. He speaks Mandarin to Isaac 80%+ of the time. When Isaac learns a word he doesn't already know, he becomes determined to learn that phrase. He knows that one day Isaac may surpass him and he wants to do all he can to keep up. Just another reason why I feel like I won the lottery with the man I married.

When I'm alone with Isaac, it's the best time to speak 100% Chinese. No need to translate for Bryan, no need to keep up communication with Grandma.

I've been doing something weird though. I knew I was doing it but I didn't stop to think about why I was doing it.

When we're at the park or library, and it's just the two of us, I will speak in complete Mandarin. However if someone we don't know comes to the play structure, I will consciously throw out a phrase of perfect English.

If I don't I'm worried people will think of me as an immigrant. And in this country few immigrants feel welcomed. I worry that if people think I can't speak perfect English, they will not want to know me. I could be cut off from mommy groups and play dates. Maybe Isaac will be disadvantaged. Maybe my opinions won't matter. Is it an irrational fear? Yes and no. Is it reality? Yes and no.

It's just something I do, and I haven't been able to make myself stop. I want to and I don't. I don't want others to tell me what they think I should do either. Just know that it's part of the immigrant experience. There's an ongoing pressure, sometimes overt but mostly subtle, to prove whether or not you belong in this country.

For now I'll probably keep doing it, especially given the fact that we live in Davis. This way we get to be that "cool" family that is doing the bilingual thing.