Our interviews – The 2nd Family

The mother of the second family interviewed is a Thai who came to Hong Kong in 1993 and got married to a Hong Kong man. Their second generation was born and raised in Hong Kong so they went to local schools, where Cantonese and English were used as the medium of instruction as well. The sister minors in Thai at the University and went to Thailand for a one-year exchange programme. The only common language all the family members share is Cantonese, while only the second generation can speak English. Except for the father, all members can speak Thai, while except the mother, all members can speak Mandarin. Therefore, the communication between the family members is interesting. Sometimes, if there’s something that the mother and the second generation do not want the father to know, they will talk in Thai. If the brother and sister would like to talk about something that they don’t want their parents to know, they will speak in English.

The table below shows the language use of the family members in different contexts.


Home Work/School Friends Religious Issues Other remarkable circumstance(s)


80%CE, 20%T 100%CE 100%CE 80%T, 20%C 100%T Phone call with Thai relatives

(2nd generation)

80%CE, 20%T 70%E, 30%CE 90%CE, 10%E 100%CE

(2nd generation)

70%CE, 30% T 70%E, 20%CE,10%T 70%CE, 20%E, 10%T 100%CE

*T=Thai, C=Cantonese, E=English, CE=Cantonese code-mix with English

(percentages are estimations made by interviewees)

As Cantonese is the only common language, most of the time the family will speak in Cantonese code mixed with some English lexicon at home. It is also noteworthy that the sister even speaks more Thai at home than her mother at home. This is because she minors the Thai language at the university and she would like to practice more at home as there are few chances that she can use Thai in other contexts. Due to the social circle of the mother in Hong Kong, she always speaks in Cantonese code-mix with English lexicon even though Thai is the language she is the most confident with. For the brother, similarly, as most of his friends speak Cantonese, he usually speaks in Cantonese while code-mixing with English with his friends.  Nonetheless, due to his occupation as a hotel receptionist, he tends to use English for better communication when he is at work.


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