Mar 25, 2010

Language and Culture: Chinatown

After lunch in Quincy Market, we headed to Chinatown. We had no idea where Chinatown was until Kevin asked a tour guide of its location. After a ten-minute walk, we arrived in Chinatown. The first thing we noticed as we entered through the gates of Chinatown was that it was very different from the outside. The people walking the streets of Chinatown were of various ethnicities, but most of them seemed to be of Asian descent. We found out that many of them are American-born Chinese and had learned to speak both the English and Chinese languages. There were also many people who had been born in China and had come to the U.S. later in their life. Most of the people in Chinatown who were Chinese-born had come from the southern part of China, so they were more familiar with dialects from their hometown.

We went to a small restaurant to have a snack. We tried out some curry fish balls. It was very tasty as well as very spicy. Most of the foods they had were not the kinds of foods you would find in your average “American” Chinese restaurant. We asked if we could have a short interview with the owner of the restaurant, and she eagerly accepted. She had come from Hong Kong, and had come to the United States at age seventeen. She spoke very good English as well as enough Mandarin to hold a conversation for an extended period of time, but her first language was Cantonese. She told us that she usually spoke with the guests in English because she is unable to tell whether the guests are American or Chinese, even though most of them are Asian. She also mentioned that English is very important for Chinese people to learn in order to live and work in the United States.

We left the restaurant and headed back to the Le Meridian Hotel in Cambridge, spirits high and stomachs satisfied and filled with spicy, delicious curry fish balls.

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