Monday, March 07, 2011
I was brought up in Hong Kong from the age of two, and although English was my primary language, Chinese quickly became my second. Cantonese was the chatter in the playground and the calls of street vendors; Mandarin the solemn tone during class and amongst the elderly in the local parks, and I loved them both, especially when I passed the entrance exam to go to an international high school. I discovered then that being Chinese didn't mean you could write it, or even speak it; many of my classmates didn't even know the meaning of their names. Mine may have been a slight misnomer wisdom and elegance weren't my strong suit but I knew it was mine. Still, it was seen as strange that I preferred English to Chinese at school, both as a subject and as a language. The English language is wonderful and intricate and it's amazing to me that meanings can change with the slightest changes in syntax, and how logical rules are often interrupted by exceptions. It's the odd words I love, along with the smell of old books, and the contentment of finishing a piece of writing. Books that bridge the two halves of my life range from Chinese classics such as 'The Water Margin' and also those by Chinese authors about Western society; Amy Tan's 'The Hundred Secret Senses' was an superb read: the past and present, the Chinese-Americans and those who fled the Manchu coming together to produce a story that doesn't have to end happily ever after. I'm also drawn to crime fiction, especially when the criminal is within a closed circle of suspects, as in James' 'Original Sin'. What I love about James is that she doesn't try to avoid the 'guilty pleasure' of the genre; she renews its conventions from within. Emily Dickinson's 'I'm nobody'was the first poem that made me laugh - I'd never thought of poetry as something humourous before this. Simon Armitage is another poet I love; coming across 'Kid' at GCSE led me to search for his work. 'A Book of Matches' is one of my favourite poetry collections - the 'Becoming of Age' section is so relatable and the flashes of insight he divulges are fascinating. The catharsis of writing poetry is always exhilarating; putting pen to paper and pushing my emotions through onto a clean page has been how I deal with life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, and less aware of what life would bring, I would pen neat little stories about morals and living happily ever after.Things changed. For three or four years after moving back to the UK, I found myself unable to write anything that wasn't an angry rant at the world, because those years of my life were hellish. It wasn't until I left high school behind that I finally found myself able to write stories again. My college held a gothic writing competition, and it was then that I remembered how hard it was to write a short story, particularly when I was so new to the Gothic genre. However, writing isn't a chore for me it's simply what I love to do. I'm interested in pursuing a teaching career - both my paternal grandparents and my father have been head teachers - my grandmother was the first Chinese headmistress in a then colonial Hong Kong. I work part-time waitressing in my local Chinese restaurant, and although not an ideal job, it has taught me that hard work pays off. I have volunteered regularly during summers since '06 at a local school in Hong Kong as a teacher's aide for English summer camps. Working with local students helped me to realize the difficulty of learning English. To go from a logical, almost rigid, language such as Chinese to English, a language full of irregularities and exceptions, is difficult, and I'm indebted to my parents for instilling bilingualism in me. Had I not learned to speak English from a young age, my life would be drastically different. All in all, I want to further pursue English as it has always been my passion and I feel that it would take me to a new level of understanding in terms of English as a language and as a subject.