Friday, April 23, 2010

Just because he can't speak English...

Doesn't mean he is stupid, Ma'am.

I was in the public library today waiting in a long line to borrow a new economics book. There were three clerks working at the counter but the line was held up by an old white lady. She seemed to be upset by the clerk who was handling her check-in. I could hear the clerk, sitting low, speaking broken language, sounded like he might have some sort of disabilities. I couldn't see him but I was imagining a person with down syndrome struggling with these simple tasks. The old lady eventually called the white mid-age clerk nearby to sort her problem.

At that time, I caught a glimpse of the sitting clerk: he was not disable, he was an Asian in his late 50s.

The white clerk tried to explain to the old lady that the Asian clerk did nothing wrong. Actually he did check-in twice to make sure the book was taken off her record. She murmured and insisted to have all her record printed out, which the white clerk obliged.

The woman waiting behind me was a bit disgusted: "What is her problem? Doesn't she know that you can't check a book out twice? Just because he is a minority, she thinks he is stupid?"

I turned around and said: "That was condescending."

She stared at me through her sunglasses like she was stunned and angered: "What? My comment?"

I replied: "No, her attitude."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chinglish VS Chinese/English

I was reading a Chinese lady's blog this morning. She wrote a short article about Beyonce and American feminism. I didn't know anything about her before today. Interestingly, her blog uses a style of mixing Chinese and English. I am no language purist. I think the recent ban on English acronyms usage in public media in China is ridiculous. Language is liquid, it changes with time, culture, and geography. Languages mix with one and other daily. There isn't and shouldn't be any defined border among languages.

But I honestly didn't see the point of this lady's blog of mixing the two languages. Is she writing to a Chinese audience or American audience? Switching back and forth of languages destroys the flow of the article and annoys the hell out of me. Is it a pretentious way of showing off that she can command both languages? Or is it a sign that she can't work with either well?

I speak and write in English everyday, it doesn't make me a better writer in Chinese. Ultimately, it is the logic and flow that makes a good argument and good essay. The soul of writing is not the language, it's the thoughts behind the language.