1. Assimilation in Hong Kong

1.1 Language is not the sole factor of assimilation

Despite their different extents of using Cantonese in daily contexts, both generations feel strongly connected and assimilated with Hong Kong people. The father from the first family speak Cantonese sometimes/rarely when he is at home (50%*), work (10%*), church (15%*) or with friends (15%*), yet he told us that,

“Although I am a Thai, I feel like I am a member in the Hong Kong society. I love this city and would like to help other Thais assimilating into Hong Kong.”

The Thai mother from the second family who mainly speak Thai at church (80%*) also noted that,

“I enjoy living in Hong Kong. Here I have my own family. In Hong Kong, there is not much discrimination against ethnic minorities. I feel like I’m one of them.”

Likewise, for the second generation in all cases, none of them has experienced discrimination. They have received education in local schools and made friends with Cantonese-speaking peers. They are highly assimilated with the local culture and lifestyle (e.g. dressing style, language use) which makes them appear like local people. Given that their mother tongue is Cantonese, they can speak and understand it as a native. These second generation Thai-Chinese mostly communicate in Cantonese (sometimes mixed with English vocabulary) in Hong Kong due to its dominance in their social lives. As a result, speaking Cantonese helps them integrate into local environment successfully and effortlessly.

1.2 Assimilation influences language use

Comparing the two generations, it is found that language choice is not the only factor affecting immigrants’ social integration. Other factors, like the attitude of local people and the cultural differences, are also influential. Since the second generation Thai-Chinese are raised in Hong Kong, they are totally assimilated with Hong Kong culture. However, although the parental generation feel they are part of the Hong Kong community, they still try to maintain some traditional habits of Thai (e.g. going to a Thai church). In these occasions, they prefer speaking Thai to Cantonese even though they are able to speak both of the languages. From their language shifts between daily situations and habitual Thai events, the generation assimilates themselves to both Hong Kong and Thai communities by flexibly shifting their language uses.
It is noteworthy that while their language choices partly influence their extent of assimilation, it is also true that their choices are affected by how much they want to be assimilated. For example, the brother in first family uses 100% Cantonese code mixed with Thai when he goes regularly to a Cantonese-speaking Christian church. Since his parents are pastors in another church for Thai community, he knows a lot of religious terms in Thai. However, when he goes to his church, he uses mainly Cantonese mixed with some special terms in Thai. On the other hand, his sister goes to a Thai-speaking church so she speaks 65% Thai during religious activities. Since there is a Cantonese-speaking group in the assembly, she uses Cantonese mixed with English that allows her to join the discussion of the group. Otherwise, she may be isolated from this Cantonese-speaking group.

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