This is a story about several generations of Chinese in Malaysia that you probably don’t know about.
His initial comment shocked the judges and audience: “Some say the greatest function of language is as a communication tool, and that the Chinese language should be eliminated gradually… because it’s the most difficult language to learn, understand, and remember.”
“But why do so many Chinese advocate that we should learn it no matter how hard it is? The real reason is that:
Chinese language is the cultural totem of the Chinese nation. It’s the key to understanding Chinese culture.
Victor used Malaysia as an example, where Chinese account for just over 20% of the population. “If it’s really only about communication, even if I didn’t know any Mandarin, I’d have no problem getting by in Malaysia.”
So why do generations of Malaysian Chinese insist on speaking Chinese? Victor explained: “It’s because of cultural identity.”
He said learning Mandarin in his generation is hard due to a widely held political misunderstanding: “The more you love the Chinese language, the more racist or bigoted you are; the harder you fight to defend Chinese schools, the less willing you are to integrate into that country.”
Malaysian Chinese grew up in this environment while defending the right to learn their mother tongue generation by generation.
Victor said that for mainlanders it’s totally normal to speak Mandarin every day, so they might not relate to his situation. “You may not be able understand our sense of pride, our weathered the memories, and the divine light the two words ‘Chinese education’ have given us.”
He thanked his ancestors for their struggles and sacrifices to pass on a Chinese education in Malaysia. “Because of you, I can speak and read Mandarin.”