As a Chinese American who grew up around other Asian Americans, I have always felt the pressure to be one of the model kids I was surrounded by. Kids who diligently went to their heritage language school from the time they were toddlers and spoke fluently in their parents’ native language.
They seemed to be able to transition flawlessly between two worlds, while I agonized and stumbled over grammar, vocabulary, and even the pronunciation of my own last name.
Now I work at a bilingual cafe, and while my Chinese speaking ability has improved a lot, I still feel like this constantly. I constantly try to mask my American accent when I speak to Chinese customers (it doesn’t work).
I often see other Chinese American customers do the same thing, even when they talk to me. Their mistakes and small tics are familiar to me.
I still try to practice my speaking and reading but I don’t want to feel like I have to hide who I am, and I don’t want others to feel that way.