Notes On Teaching Creative Writing in Hong Kong

Kawika Guillermo
May 26, 2017 · 7 min read
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Courtesy of The Feminist Press

“lofty men, chiefly white, to whom we were uninteresting children of the Asian masses”

Like many Americans, I grew up monolingual. My grandparents spoke a foreign tongue, Ilocano, and since Filipinos were speaking Tagalog, my “mother tongue” was an impossible language. It was never creative, never dignified, never worth the time. So in University I took classes in German, and when I lived abroad I learned Korean, and finally Mandarin, which I learned for two years at the University of Washington, and two more living in Nanjing. Despite my ongoing attempts to learn other tongues, I still identify as monolingual (despite this training, despite living in Korea, China, and Hong Kong). Even if I conversed in Mandarin for an hour, I still feel like I am only faking it: the monolingual passing as the real deal.

the possibility of drowning

Language learning does not prepare students to write creatively. If they engage with English literature, film, or television, it is as outsiders, admirers, distant lovers whose marriage is never meant to be. Poetry too becomes a means of learning English, not a means of re-creation. It represents a gate marked in the beauty of English architecture, but the gate is always locked. As professors we can give them the key, show them the interior, but as soon as we leave, the tour ends.


[1] Under the Article 9 of the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Official Languages Ordinance, English and Chinese are of equal status, and make up the official languages of the territory, even though only 3.5% speak English as their first language (CIA World Factbook).


Lim, Shirley. (1997) Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands. New York: Feminist Press.


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