When I tell Chinese people my boyfriend is Chinese, they are usually surprised. The most common response is, “Wow…his English must be really good.” Interestingly enough, when I tell American friends about my Chinese boyfriend, their response is “Wow…your Chinese must be really good.” The truth is, neither is true. While my Chinese is better than my boyfriend’s English, we speak what we ABCs call “Chinglish.” For the most part, I try to speak only English to him, while he responds with mostly Chinese with some English words thrown in. As a result, his English listening skills have improved drastically. Sometimes I’ll throw in some Chinese slang, like when I point out an outfit that’s so “out.” (Ta de yifu zhen de hen out.)
Some American couples are so close they have their own language, even though it’s in English. Being in a cross-cultural relationship takes that to a literal level. I hardly notice anymore when a sentence spoken by my boyfriend or by myself is infused with a mix of English and Chinese words. An example would be just today when we were talking about dinner. I asked him, “Wo men hai you turkey ma? I can make pasta, but can you help me buy xi lan hua (broccoli)?” Being part of a bilingual couple is also useful in sensitive situations, where I don’t want the third party to understand what I’m saying.