Have you ever been laughed at by family or friends when you tried speaking a new language? It’s particularly disheartening when it’s the language your family speaks.
In this episode, we speak to artist and illustrator Pearl Low on the difficulties of finding safe spaces for language learning, especially for heritage language learners. Heritage language learners are people who have a certain language in their family, can understand it to a basic degree, but cannot speak it fluently. Learning a heritage language can be especially difficult because of the immense cultural expectations, constant judgement, lack of resources, and the harmful legacy of assimilation and racism in many countries (where speaking a foreign language could bring great prejudice or harm.)
Pearl knows firsthand the difficulties in finding an inclusive environment to learn your heritage language. That’s why they founded Cantonese Connection, a learning platform with resources to learn Cantonese in a way that feels welcoming and open — no matter one’s familiarity or experience with the language.
Join host Megan Cattel and Pearl as they candidly address the delicate experiences of navigating heritage languages within one’s family circle, discuss the do’s and don’ts of heritage language learning … and also try to figure out why Chinese language textbooks always feature a guy named Dawei (the businessman) in all their examples.
- How to Learn a Heritage Language (NPR Life Kit)
- It Takes a Classroom to Learn the Family Language (NPR Code Switch)
- A Daughter’s Journey To Reclaim Her Heritage Language (Where We Come From)
- The Parents Trying to Pass Down a Language They Hardly Speak (The Atlantic)
- Bilingual Generation’s Instagram page
- Reading, or Something Like It, Guest Essay from Catherine Chou: How to learn Taiwanese and read Mandarin in a year (Broad and Ample Road Substack)
Pearl’s recommended Cantonese language-learning tools:
- Cantonese Connection’s Instagram
- UBC Cantonese Language Program
- Gordon Lau on YouTube
- New Dellily on YouTube
- 5-minute Cantonese with Amanda on YouTube
- Speaking Cantonese with Miss Winnie on YouTube
- Doraemon in Cantonese on YouTube
- Peppa Pig in Cantonese on YouTube
- Turning Red in Cantonese on Disney Plus
- Pleco Dictionary
- Hanping Dictionary
- “What Caa4 Thinking?” Pearl Low’s podcast
About Pearl Low:
Pearl Low 劉寶珠 is a non-binary story artist, writer, and illustrator of Cantonese and Jamaican heritage. They are the founder of Cantonese Connection, a cultural language learning platform and safe space for heritage language learners among others. Low worked on the Oscar-winning “Hair Love” film as well as Netflix’s “Canvas,” and Cartoon Network’s “Craig of the Creek”. Currently, Pearl is directing an original animated series that was previously optioned by Netflix.