Andrew Yang is an American lawyer turned businessman, author, and politician who has been credited with popularizing the notion of universal basic income for all citizens of the United States. His strong American views, coupled with his even stronger American accent, lead people to wonder: does Andrew Yang speak Chinese?
Despite being the son of Taiwanese immigrants and attending Chinese Language School on the weekend, Andrew Yang cannot speak Chinese. As far as the public can tell, he understands the language but cannot speak it further than introducing himself and stringing a sentence or two together.
Although he is not proficient in the language, Andrew is very proud of his heritage. Let’s find out more about Andrew Yang, his upbringing, his ability to speak the language, and what ties he has to his Asian heritage.
Andrew Yang’s Upbringing
Andrew was born on 13 January 1975 in Schenectady, New York, to Taiwanese-American parents Kei-Hsiung and Nancy L. Yang who emigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s.
Kei-Hsiung holds a Ph.D. in physics and has generated over 50 patents in this career while Nancy has a Master’s degree in statistics and worked as a university systems administrator before becoming an artist. The pair met at the University of California’s graduate school.
He was raised in Westchester and describes his childhood self as “The skinny Asian kid… who was ignored or picked on.” Despite being bullied, due to his race, smaller stature, and the fact that he skipped a grade, Andrew excelled academically.
While a student, Andrew’s parents sent him to Chinese Language School on the weekends in the hopes that he would pick up the language. But, alas, he did not and said, “I was just bad at it… I never made it past the third grade.”
Andrew went to the Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school and after his graduation in 1992, he went to Brown University to study economics and political science.
He graduated in 1996 and headed straight to Columbia Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1999.
Andrew Yang’s Linguistic Abilities
While Kei-Hsiung and Nancy speak perfect Mandarin, the same cannot be said for their son. Andrew’s first language is and always has been English, and for some reason, he hasn’t been able to pick up Chinese as well as he may have wanted to.
That’s not to say that Andrew cannot understand the language — far from it! In many interviews, the interviewer will ask him questions in fast and fluent Chinese that Andrew will respond to in English without missing a beat.
Occasionally, Andrew speaks a Chinese word or sentence or two in these interviews but he always reverts to English almost immediately.
So while, technically speaking, he can speak basic Chinese, his linguistic abilities would just about be classed as beginner level as his vocabulary is limited and his pronunciation is sometimes a little off.
Does Andrew Yang Have Any Ties to His Asian Heritage?
Andrew is a born and bred American, but he has a couple of ties to his Asian heritage that spans further than him being able to speak a few sentences in his parents’ native tongue.
He told Politico, “I’ve been Asian all my life, and I remember vividly growing up with this constant sense of invisibility, mockery, and disdain. A sense that you cannot be American if you have an Asian face” and details how, at various points in his life and career, his ‘Asian-ness’ has been discriminated against.
Of course, Andrew has embraced his heritage as an adult and even more so as a political figure. He says he is “very proud” of his heritage and encourages his fellow Asian-Americans to feel the same.
And finally, while he eats all kinds of foods, he’s frequently spotted at Chinese restaurants and his Instagram page often features snaps of Asian cuisine. It may not sound like much, but to many of his followers, it’s a tangible connection to his heritage.