Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Day 3 of Aunties series – Chinese characters

Click here for Day 1 progress.

Click here for Day 2 progress.


I decided to go with layout 2 for the series because it is grouped in a similar orientation. I also liked how this vertical orientation creates a diamond shape as a whole, giving it some variety. While layout 1 is nice for nice straight lines, it was boring after viewing it many times.

After making that decision, I started drawing the Vico chocolate drink packet on day 2.

Vico

This sketch has been floating in my mind for days, especially after the passing of Aunt CS at the end of March. I show this sketch to my husband this morning and he laughed because he got the reference of the text and image.

I mixed two languages for the text of the piece. Vico 不好喝 is translated to “Vico is not a delicious drink.” The reason why I used two languages is because my relatives and I speak a mixture of English and Mandarin. My Aunt CS made that straightforward comment about my husband’s favourite chocolate drink. It was funny and until today, I remember those words fondly.

Background

One thing to note from this sketch is my background as a Banana Chinese (香蕉人). For the benefit of non-Malaysians, a Banana Chinese refers to an ethnic Chinese who does not know how to read, speak, or understand Chinese culture (yellow skin) and adopts mostly the Western influences (white flesh/core). As a third-generation ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, I speak mostly English, followed by Bahasa Malaysia, then Mandarin. I speak English because my father used to attend an English school in Malaya, which is a legacy of British colonisation in Malaya. After the independence, the Malaysian government changed the medium of the language to Bahasa Malaysia which is used up to today. My mother went to Chinese primary school and then went to English secondary school. Both my parents decided to send my siblings and me to a national school instead of a Chinese vernacular school because they wanted us to have better English comprehension, as most universities locally and abroad were in English at that time. Furthermore, China was not a major powerhouse at that time, which means English was placed at a higher importance. Hence, I am a product of a national school system, in which I learnt Bahasa Malaysia as my second language.

As a result of my parents’ educational upbringing and decisions,  I grew up speaking three languages, of which Mandarin is my weakest language. I could speak some Mandarin because my mother and relatives speak Mandarin though I cannot read Chinese. However, my background in three different languages did mindf*ck a lot of Chinese speaking people in my own country. They often stereotype me and have said certain things in Chinese, thinking that I do not understand. However, I would not let them go on certain statements and gave them a retort in Mandarin. These days, some are kind to me for my odd Chinese language ability, but I also have seen some who do not know what to do with me. I do sound like a Banana Chinese, but at the same time, I know enough of the Chinese language to navigate around certain situations. It is like, “Is the person really a Banana or not?”

Too bad for them , I do not think I can be just placed in any boxes.

Chinese characters

Since I did not learn Chinese in school, I am reliant on Google translate for Chinese characters. Firstly, I rely on remembering a Chinese phrase through its pinyin. For example, I remember my aunt saying “bu hao he.” Secondly, I used Google translate to get the Chinese characters.

Drink

I know that the English version sounds weird, but it needs to match the “bu hao he” in my mind. Some may ask how will I know if this “bu hao he” is the right “bu hao he”?

Here is how I know if I get the right characters:

  1. I recognised the characters “不好”, which are commonly used in the Chinese language to say no or saying that it is not great.
  2. “喝” had “口” in front — denoting a verb relating to the mouth “口”. We drink through our mouths. Also, “口” is the second character that I learnt in my kindergarten due to its shape which looks like a mouth.
  3. Verified by my husband who went to a Chinese primary school.

I know some may disagree with my methods. Being that weird Banana Chinese means that I cannot join beginner classes because I know how to speak Chinese but am unable to do an intermediate class because I do not know how to read Chinese. For that reason, I cannot learn Chinese the traditional way.

Chinese strokes order

After overcoming the character obstacles, I needed to learn how to write strokes. I know that my strokes in the sketch above are not great, but it is a sketch to put my ideas down on paper. Please be kind to me and only critique my final work, ok?

I managed to find http://www.strokeorder.info. Now that I have found the stroke order, I will be practising them until the final artwork.

 

(Featured header photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash).