Can you preserve the culture once the language is lost?

Chinese stages

This week’s topic was inspired by Diu podcast. As I was listening, it really caused me to think a lot.

When Jack brought up the question, “Can you preserve the culture once the language is lost?” I was astonished. I’ve never thought about it.

There were a number of questions running through my head. For instance: Have I preserved my culture? What do I even do? What are my beliefs?

Then, I realized aside from teaching my kids how to speak Cantonese/Mandarin and read Chinese, I have nothing else I plan to carry down to my future generation (if I were to have kids in the future).

I mean, I personally don’t follow traditions unless I am forced to. The only time I pray and put incenses up for my ancestors is when I’m in China.

I’ve done things such as leaping over fire, praying and bowing in different directions of the house, as well as burning fake money to my dead ancestors.

Yet, I have no intentions of carrying on these traditions. To me, I do it out of respect for my elders and relatives. But if I were to have kids, am I going to teach them or do these kinda stuff?? The answer is no.

Do I feel bad? Not really. I think it’s because these values and traditions do not matter to me. It’s sad to say, but I think they’re usually too extreme.

For example, women who give birth are not supposed to shower and go out for 30 days after delivery. The reason being is that after delivery, the woman’s body is at its weakest. Hence, it is necessary for the woman to avoid “wind” and not get “wet”.

I think in order to follow these traditions, you have to be super hardcore. 

Another example is carrying red pocket envelopes and giving it to people whom you encounter or see during Chinese New Year (usually to the children of the people you know). However, personally, I don’t want to be expected to give your kids money just because I know you and we end up bumping into each other (sorry, I’m cheap. Haha). It is quite normal though, in the Chinese culture. It’s considered rude if you do not do so.

The only thing I would do is to teach my children how to read, write, and speak the language (to the extent I am capable of). Culture is kind of irrelevant to me, but I feel like if I do not pass on my knowledge of Chinese to my kids, then it’ll disappear forever.

Some of my Chinese friends have parents who speak English, and as a result, they can only speak one language -since that’s all they’ve spoken at home. I think it is such a pity because their future kids will most likely never be exposed to Chinese.

This actually makes me quite sad because, I, as a second generation, already do not care about preserving my Chinese culture. What’s going to happen by the third generation? Would they even speak the language? Or will all be lost eventually? 😥

As for my answer to the question, I don’t think it’s possible to preserve culture without the language. Even with the language, I feel like I won’t preserve the culture.

What are your thoughts?

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About gchan7127

I just want to share all my knowledge, ideas, and experiences with the world. It makes me happy to know that I can inspire others.
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12 Responses to Can you preserve the culture once the language is lost?

  1. You’re welcome! I was reading up on a Brazilian tribe called the Piraha that doesn’t really use language to communicate and how it has an influence on how they shape their culture – check them out

  2. Palladium says:

    my thought on this. i think the culture itself grow according to it’s creator, just like child, language is just one of the limb, chop em up and the baby still grew. Cluture will evolve, the one that don’t want the changes to happen are idiots or people with undying love towards the past.

    • gchan7127 says:

      Ohhhh! Interesting point of view! Thank you for your comment! Yes, the baby will still grow..hmmmmmm

      • Palladium says:

        You’re welcome, it’s a good reads.
        Yeah, i think the only way to eardicate or stop the evolution of the culture is to become a dictator and do some “genocide” on the creator of the “baby” which is us human.

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  4. Tikeetha T says:

    LOL. I wouldn’t say super hard core, but you need to want to learn it. When a friend of mine was pregnant with her daughter I told her that they needed to speak Russian in the house to her so that her daughter could keep up with the language and culture. She was afraid that her daughter wouldn’t learn English. I said, “She’ll learn English at school. Let her know her culture.” Her daughter knows both English and Russian and they travel to Russia yearly.

    • gchan7127 says:

      I’m glad your friend listened to you!! True, you definitely need to want to learn it in order to preserve it.

      Knowing another language is very beneficial though. I’m glad Munch is learning French as well. 🙂

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  6. Tachi Works says:

    I think it’s nice having language options because in the future you get to experience more. Bc language really is power, it’s like the prerequisite to different paths you can take. Even little things like being able to read your fave books without waiting on translators is already big from an outsiders pov

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