Courtesy of a predominantly English-speaking background - and possibly years of rigorous education in an all-boys missionary school, my mind speaks in English. Dramas, tragedies and romances unfold in my overdeveloped imagination all subtitled in English with only occasional bursts of other Chinese dialects interspersed. Can't recall with perfect clarity but I assume the many vivid dreams I had - even in old Shanghai - were all surprisingly dubbed in English. Even when I speak in other languages, I think first of it in English, run it through my mind with some brief editing ( perhaps even some colourful alliteration :P ) before translating it into the respective dialects.
Believe that the language our mind thinks in actually affects the way the mind works. Like I'm pretty sure Charming Calvin's mind works in Mandarin. :)
Do you speak my language?
Although my bookish father's pretty much a cunning linguist in several languages, it's obviously not hereditary. Piles of Ladybird books and endless reruns of Sesame Street taught me all I know about the English language but that's about it. My Hokkien's pretty good, my Mandarin's somewhat passable and my Cantonese is just enough to keep me safe from getting severely beaten up by tattooed, overly burly DVD salesmen ( especially since I tend to garble up my Cantonese while shopping - who knows if I'm actually saying voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir to one of those dyed blond studs? ).
Mandarin's new to me actually. Half a decade of deplorable POL ( People's Own Language ) classes, where I actually spent my time doodling endlessly over castles in the sky, barely made a dent so don't be shocked that I actually just picked it up barely three years back. Working in the hospital with a thousand and one patients means, we tend to pick up bits and pieces of other local dialects here and there. Wait till you hear my little broken bits of Tamil and Hindi.
These days, I'm at least able to manage a short conversation in Mandarin before my sadly limited vocabulary runs out. Sadly enough, apart from brief elementary questions on the weather ( and possibly horrible medical diseases ), there's only so much I can put into a sentence before I inevitably have to scratch my head thinking of a word. Complex sociopolitical issues stretch my pathetic grasp of the language a little too much and it isn't long before I start ad-libbing with other words to replace those that I haven't a clue.
Wouldn't be surprised if Charming Calvin hasn't had a titter or two at my expense. :)
At least I managed to stumble through several getting-to-know-you meets in Shanghai about a year back, even with their heavily accented Mandarin. Though it wouldn't surprise me if they were actually hiding behind their wolfish smiles over the inept Overseas Born Chinaman.
Probably sounded something like this.
Paul : Halllloooo... me Paul from Malaysia.
Third Cousin : Good evening. Welcome.
Paul : Fly here from Malaysia I did.
Third Cousin : Yes. Did you have a good flight?
Paul : Fly. Fly. I did fly.
Fourth Cousin : Come in, take a seat.
Paul : Chair. Sit. Yes.
Third Cousin in sotto voce to Fourth Cousin : Do you think he's a simpleton?
Must have thought I'm descended from one of the duller branches in the family.