Now that many non-Chinese have moved to China and many native Chinese live throughout the world, cross cultural dating has become far more common. For someone leaving mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore and moving to a western country, what are some of the cultural pitfalls and traps you need to avoid and adjustments you need to make? For someone moving to any of those four areas, the same questions apply. Are the “rules” different for Chinese women dating outside their culture as compared to Chinese men doing the same?
My direct experience isn’t too pertinent since I met my wife in Phoenix and she had already been living in the States for nine years, but there were still many adjustments we (mostly I) had to make. She was the first Asian woman I had ever dated so I didn’t fall into the “yellow fever” category. However, when I was living in mainland China and Taiwan, I had a chance to observe, ask questions and learn more from others involved in cross cultural relationships.
Here is a light topic. Since last year’s parody song “Say a word in heart”, singing songs in a foreign language — if you can call it that — has been raised to a totally new level. You’ve probably even heard the stomach-churning subsequent parodies of “Shanghai beach”, “Spicy girl”, and even the Peking Opera standard “Su san qi jie”, but alas this genre has mercifully run its short course.
On the other hand, there are more serious foreign language translations of songs, too. Just today, I discovered really nice versions of translated national anthems. Most anthems tend to be specific to a national consciousness, metrically prosidic, and so difficult to convey well in a different language context, but these two versions are quite good, I thought! What say you?
Continue reading People of the world unite?!
I’m on an extended visit back to my hometown, Vancouver, a Canadian city full of Chinese. Chinese is the second-most commonly used language after English. My wife and I were running around a Chinese mall for fun to practice Mandarin and buy some Chinese DVDs when we overheard Chinese people talking about us in Mandarin saying, “Those foreigners are speaking Chinese!” I thought it was funny that even in Canada, Chinese people would call white people “foreigner” (in this case: “外国人”).
Continue reading (Letter from Joel) How should foreigners feel about being called “鬼子,” “鬼佬,” “老外,” etc.?
Recently a friend asked for help with the etymology of the word 危险。 She’s writing her thesis on the edge that artists have when they skillfully play with “danger.” Her whole thesis revolves around the concept of Danger in art and all her professors keep telling her that 危险 has a different connotation in Chinese than danger does in English. So she needs someone to help her to figure out what 危险originally means in Chinese. Continue reading What I talk about when I talk about copycatting
In a recent commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 6, 2009, A33), Professor Brockmann (professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University) pointed out that the study of foreign languages should not be a zero-sum game.His commentary is a response to the University of Southern California’s plan to eliminate the German Department to usher in studies of Eastern Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese. I think he has got a point in saying that this is not a zero-sum game.
When one deals with a foreign language, there is always a chance to produce (sometimes hilarious) errors. This blog has cautioned readers against the danger of relying on automated translation services. Now it seems consulting with a human expert does not necessarily guard one from embarrassment either.
I was alerted by the China Hearsay to a story titled “Disabled groups outraged by Beijing snub,” at the Times. It reported the indignation expressed by some to an official guide for volunteers at the Beijing Olympic Games in August and the Paralympics in September.
“I’m stunned,” said Simone Aspis, a parliamentary campaigner at the UK Disabled People’s Council. “It’s not just the language but the perception that in 2008 we are considered a race apart. ”
So what is it in that guide that caused such negative reactions? One example offered in the news report is the following abbreviated quote lifted from the guide:
“Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling . . . defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority.”
[EDITED TO ADD A NOTE] I probably should have noted that the “…” in the quote above spans fully three pages in the guide and the separated parts are placed in completely different sections. Yet, the next quote listed in the report follows almost right after the “They can be stubborn and controlling” part.
Hmm, I must admit such writing, as reported, sounds inartful. (As an aside, I am a bit sensitive to inartful language nowadays.) It’s understandable that some may even find it insulting. Nevertheless, is there some contextual information that was lost in the reporting? I decided to read through the guide and see for myself. And the following is the full paragraph containing the offending quote.
Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability. For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called “crippled” or “paralyzed”. It is not acceptable for others to hurt their dignity, so volunteers should make extra efforts to assist with due respect.