A Daughter's Journey To Learn Mandarin Chinese At 30 : Short Wave Nearly 1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. But Short Wave host Emily Kwong is not among them. As a third generation Chinese American, Emily's heritage language was lost through the years when her father, Christopher Kwong, stopped speaking the language at a young age in order to adjust to life in the U.S. Now, at age 30, Emily's trying to reclaim Chinese by attending virtual Mandarin classes for the first time. In conversation with her father, Emily explores how being 'Chinese enough' gets tied up in language fluency, and how language is a bridge that can be broken and rebuilt between generations — as an act of love and reclamation.

Check out more of the Where We Come From series here.

'Where We Come From': Emily Kwong's Story

'Where We Come From': Emily Kwong's Story

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Where are you really from? It's a question immigrants of color — and their descendants — get asked over and over. But the answer is often complex, and not just about a place on a map.

In a new video and audio series called Where We Come From, immigrants of color across generations tell their stories conversation with family members, friends, and experts.

This episode features Short Wave host Emily Kwong. She's a third generation Chinese American, but she's never spoken her family's heritage language.

Now, at age 30, she's trying to learn Mandarin Chinese for the first time, and unpacking why she never learned it in the first place.

Christopher Kwong, Emily's father, stopped speaking Mandarin when he was five years old. His parents — Emily's grandparents — didn't want him to fall behind in school at the time. In conversation together, Christopher and Emily process what it means to stop speaking a language — the generational cost of assimilation.

Emily will also explore how being 'Chinese enough' gets tied up in language fluency and the feeling of racial imposter syndrome, in conversation with sociolinguist Amelia Tseng. She discovers how language is a bridge that can be broken and rebuilt between generations — as an act of love and reclamation.

Emily Kwong, age 2, and her grandparents, Hui and Edgar Kwong. Emily Kwong hide caption

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Emily Kwong

Emily Kwong, age 2, and her grandparents, Hui and Edgar Kwong.

Emily Kwong

You can find more Where We Come From stories here.

Anjuli Sastry created and produced 'Where We Come From' with additional editing and production by Julia Furlan and Diba Mohtasham. Video reporting, production, and editing by Michael Zamora. Fact checking and research by Candice Vo Kortkamp. Our director of programming is Yolanda Sangweni.