WMFE is Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming on 90.7 FM and Classical Music on 90.7 HD2. Part of the community since 1965, WMFE focuses on providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Short Wave: A Daughter’s Journey To Reclaim Her Heritage Language


Play Audio

Emily Kwong is host and reporter of NPR's Short Wave podcast.


NPR Short Wave host and reporter Emily Kwong is a third generation Chinese American, but she’s never spoken her family’s language.

Until now.

At age 30, she’s trying to learn the language for the first time, and unpacking why she never learned it in the first place.

Emily’s father, Christopher Kwong, stopped speaking his first language — Mandarin Chinese — when he was five-years-old. Born in New York City in 1958, he struggled to communicate with his kindergarten teacher and classmates.

Emily’s grandparents, Hui and Edgar Kwong, were worried he would fall behind. They stopped speaking Mandarin to Christopher at home, and dedicated themselves to teaching him English.

“I realized I had to engage in a different world, a world in English,” Christopher Kwong says. “You have to integrate, otherwise you’re going to be really in a terrible place.”

In turn, Emily never learned her family’s ‘heritage language’ growing up. In a conversation years in the making, Emily and Christopher process what it means to stop speaking a language — the generational cost of assimilation.

Emily will 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 also discovers how language is a bridge that can be broken and rebuilt between generations — as an act of love and reclamation.

This story is part of the Where We Come From series, featuring stories from immigrant communities of color across generations, in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month. Find more stories here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

GET THE LATEST
Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity

TOP