Not a Broken Language


How do Chinese people name their kids? Oh it’s very easy, they just throw a spoon down the stairs, and ching chang ting ling bing ding ming. There you have it, what a wonderful boy’s name!

I’ll just establish this right now that ching chang ting ling bing ding ming means absolutely and utterly nothing. It sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me, a second generation Chinese girl who learned the language in my grandmother’s kitchen and in weekly Sunday school.

Chinese developed and advanced over thousands of years, developing not only into a language that 16 percent of the world’s population speaks as their first language but also an art form. Revered as an unmatched part of of Chinese culture, calligraphy reveals the beauty, effort and timeliness of the strokes that make up each character.

Yet, today in American culture, the Chinese language is thrown around, mocked and degraded throughout social media and pop culture. Tweets and memes of Chinese little boys with bad haircuts, chopsticks in one hand, calculator in the other and squinty eyes trend all across the Internet, perpetuating the stereotype of a typical Chinese math wizard. The caption then reads “Mom, why do Asians sleep so much?” or “HAHA, Medusa ain’t getting me.” Playing off TV personality Jimmy Kimmel’s popular segment “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets,” this New York Times Video, “Asian Americans Respond,” shows just how derogatory Asian racist tweets are. 

Here’s the thing, props to all those Chinese math wizards out there, your intelligence doesn’t need to be insulted by any demeaning social media post. And to all those Chinese students out there for whom math is not their forte, that’s ok too. Math isn’t tied to an ethnicity, and you are not tied to a subject.

Chinese people are not defined by their math mastery or the chings and mings in their conversations, and neither should anyone of any Asian descent and of any ethnicity. While I understand that there are clear distinctions between the English and Chinese language just by sound and characters, we should celebrate the differences that make each human individually unique.

Just because a language might differ from English, it is not broken. Instead, from Chinese to Hindi and everything in between, they tell a story of a country’s history, heritage, progress and future.

– Aurelia Han – A&E Editor –