I understand Cantonese nearly fluently. I grew up hearing my parents and family speak Cantonese, and would respond in Chinese mixed with English — “Chinglish.” Cantonese is the language of my childhood, the language of my first memories. It is the “mother tongue” that still strikes at something deep within my bones.
Over time, as I grew up and became more and more staunchly American, my speaking Cantonese faded nearly entirely away. My parents would speak to me in Cantonese, and I would respond in English.