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How A Chinese Immigrant Mother Struggled With Language And Identity In Canada

Why My Mother Cant Speak English: A Review of Garry Engkents Short Story

Language is more than just a tool for communication. It is also a way of expressing ones identity, culture and values. For many immigrants, learning a new language can be a challenging and rewarding process that opens up new opportunities and perspectives. However, for some, it can also be a source of fear, resistance and alienation. This is the case for the mother of Garry Engkent, a Chinese-Canadian writer who shares his personal experience in his short story Why My Mother Cant Speak English.

How a Chinese Immigrant Mother Struggled with Language and Identity in Canada

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In this article, we will review Engkents story and analyze its main themes, characters and messages. We will also provide a link to download the pdf version of the story for those who want to read it in full. If you are interested in learning more about the struggles and achievements of Chinese immigrants in Canada, this story is a must-read.

The Plot of Why My Mother Cant Speak English

The story begins with Engkents mother receiving a letter from the Canadian government that informs her that she needs to apply for citizenship or risk losing her old age pension. She is terrified by the idea of having to speak English in front of a judge and recite the oath of allegiance. She has been living in Canada for over thirty years, but she has never learned English. She feels that English is a foreign and hostile language that would change her Fan Gwei ways, which means foreign devil in Cantonese.

Engkent tries to reassure his mother that she will not be deported and that he will help her with the application process. He takes her to the courthouse and talks to a liaison officer who asks him why his mother cant speak English after so long. Engkent explains that his father discouraged his mother from learning English because he wanted to preserve their Chinese culture and traditions. He also reveals that his father was abusive and controlling towards his mother and that he died a few years ago.

The liaison officer tells Engkent that his mother will have to take an oral test with a judge who will ask her some questions about Canada and its history. He also says that she will have to speak the oath of allegiance in English. Engkent decides to cheat and translate for his mother without telling the judge. He hopes that his mother will pass the test and become a Canadian citizen.

The day of the test arrives and Engkent accompanies his mother to the judges office. The judge asks his mother some basic questions about Canada, such as its capital city, its national anthem and its prime minister. Engkent translates for his mother and makes up some answers that he thinks are correct. He also helps his mother recite the oath of allegiance in English by whispering it in her ear. The judge congratulates his mother and gives her a certificate of citizenship.

Engkents mother is overjoyed and thanks her son for his help. She says that she feels like a new person and that she wants to learn more about Canada and its culture. She also says that she wants to learn English so that she can talk to her grandchildren who only speak English. Engkent is happy for his mother but also feels guilty for lying to the judge. He wonders if he did the right thing or if he betrayed his fathers wishes.

The Themes of Why My Mother Cant Speak English

One of the main themes of the story is the conflict between tradition and modernity. Engkents mother represents the traditional Chinese values and beliefs that are rooted in her homeland and her past. She is reluctant to learn English because she fears losing her identity and her connection to her culture. She also respects her husbands authority and follows his rules even after his death.

Engkent represents the modern Canadian values and beliefs that are influenced by his present and his future. He is fluent in English and embraces the diversity and freedom of his new country. He also challenges his fathers authority and breaks his rules by helping his mother become a citizen.

The story shows how these two different worldviews clash and coexist within one family. It also shows how they can change 04f6b60f66


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