Taiwenglish?


#1

I’m just curious. Do Taiwan-produced TV shows, publications of general interest, websites, advertising companies, and music composers (and producers) ever consult English copyeditors prior to releasing their works to the public?

For example: I’ve seen a local version of an international men’s magazine carrying a lot typos. If the editorial staff of its international edition would see how their counterparts in Taiwan murder the English language, then the local version would probably lose its franchise!

On TV, I’ve seen this show which used the line: “The Pity of War” (what???). And who can ever forget that popular jingle of an undergarment ad which hollers “Beauty Up your life.” (Whoa!)

If you’ve been to a wedding banquet and have received one of those wedding cookies, wouldn’t the “poetry” written on the packaging elicit guffaw on your part instead of a feeling of nostalgia or romance? (I know there’s more. Guess you have a favorite one!)

I’m a bit bothered because the Taiwanese populace might readily assume that these messages were rightfully stated considering that they have been released through proper media channels. And thus, the public would readily make these as part of their speech. Ugh! It’s very dangerous.


#2
quote[quote]I've seen a local version of an international men's magazine carrying a lot typos. If the editorial staff of its international edition would see how their counterparts in Taiwan murder the English language, then the local version would probably lose its franchise! [/quote]

Please let me know if this magazine is Gentleman’s Q. I’ll be sure to inform those in charge.

The local editions aren’t franchised, btw.

I’ve been guffawing at the packaging here for years. I used to collect them, even!

However, since English is an international language, it is used differently all over the world. The ownership of this tongue is no longer in the hands of those few first layer countries who claim it as the official language. It’s used differently in the second layer countries as well, such as Singapore, Philippines, India, etc, who use it intra-nationally. According to some academics, ‘native speakers have lost the exclusive prerogotive to control its standardization.’ (Kachru)

I tend to agree with them on that. Besides, isn’t it fun to see the creative usages?


#3
quote[quote]native speakers have lost the exclusive prerogotive to control its standardization[/quote]

Maybe, but I only see ignorant misusage of English here, not an attempt to effect a regional standard. Surely there must be some room in the field of linguistics for excellence. If excellence is to exist, then we must necessarily discriminate between examples of greater and lesser quality. Quality by definition would require some standards to be defined and met. I do not see that here, I only see laziness. (Kan de dong jiu hao…)

This “I’m OK, You’re OK approach” to language only serves to make the mediocre feel better about themselves. It doesn’t do anything to enhance the communicative experience.


#4

LONG TIME NO SEE baby, does that explain anything??
LONG TIME NO SEE!


#5

blah,
I don’t know what the fuk you are talking about. Yes, we know that long time no see came from Chinese, whoopdeefrickindooo. What’s your point?
Phaedrus, (Plato or Pirsig?).
What do you mean by ignorant? Ignorant of the meaning English has for you. I don’t think a regional standard has ever been effected by design. What standard can communication be judged by rather than kandedong jiu hao or tingdedong jiu hao? To me, those are some mighty high standards of quality. I would love to hear you outline a better standard. If some poor ignorant peasant uses an English word, phrase or sentence “incorrectly” and another poor ignorant peasant understands what he or she means, it seems to me that some serious high quality communication is going on. Control of a language rests with those who use it rather than those who invent it. English has a long history of arbitrarily adapting words from other languages and yet we seem to be pretty clear on the meaning of those words. Finally, has anyone ever listened to the Chinese being spoken in an American movie? Half the time a Cantonese speaker is having a conversation with a Mandarin speaker.


#6
quote[quote] I only see ignorant misusage of English here, not an attempt to effect a regional standard. [/quote]

Dear Professor “Phaedrus” Higgins,

Your Victorian era view of the ‘standardisation of English’ is rather optimistic in this age of world Englishes.

Consider this:
Widespread use of English threatens other languages. It is the language of power and prestige and acts as a gatekeeper to social and economic progress.
A hegemonic view such as yours may render this progress even more inaccessible to the masses.

quote[quote] Surely there must be some room in the field of linguistics for excellence. [/quote]

Linguists are obliged to study language through language.

Don’t be so dismissive of expressions that are unfamiliar to you, for this is a highly imperialistic political stance.


#7
quote[quote]The ownership of this tongue is no longer in the hands of those few first layer countries who claim it as the official language. [/quote]

Nobody “owns” a language. However, if a group of people speak it so badly that it no longer communicates to the speakers of the accepted standard version, then it’s not that language any more, is it? How many times have you been spoken to in improper English, and have to ask the person what it is they mean? THAT is the reason for having the right grammar and vocabulary.

quote[quote] 'native speakers have lost the exclusive prerogotive to control its standardization.' [/quote]

The point is that if another group of people are changing the language to the point that they are losing their power to communicate effectively, then they are hurting themselves. That is why any effective commodity has to establish standards. BTW–any educated person in India or the Philippines will speak excellent English. There are people in every English-speaking country who can only speak the local “pidgin” (even in the U.S. and Britain). But their lack of ability to also speak the COMMON English language will always keep them from succeeding because they will not be able to bridge the gap between themselves and people from other places.

The strength of knowing any language being used internationally is to be able to communicate effectively with people of other places and cultures.

If they’re not learning the language enough to communicate an idea accurately, then they DO have to improve their skills. If I spoke my inadequate Chinese and then expected the people of Taiwan to understand the nuances of my thoughts, I’d be living in a dream-world.

I don’t impose any value on language other than it’s power to help us communicate.

I have no idea what the rest of you are talking about.


#8

There’s an ad for a naval school at the Hoping/Keelung intersection that’s all in Chinese except for the banner headline that reads: “Just do yourself.”

Always makes me laugh.


#9

Just do yourself? Hahahaha!

That’s like the sign off Minsheng, “Dick Lady Hair Salon”, or the “Homely Furniture Company” on Wenchang, or “Mother Fucker Fashion” near Civic Blvd. Even that chain store called “Wanko”…

Do we perceive these instances as a deterioration of standards? Is it corrupting and polluting our native language?
I’d prefer to take on the pluralistic concept of variety rather than the conservative argument for maintaining standard which is concerned mainly with description and intelligibility.

The spread of English is considered natural, neutral, and beneficial.
Natural, as its expansion is seen as the result of global forces.
Neutral, as it has become detached from its original cultural contexts, sometimes acquiring undesirable connotations.
Beneficial, as English has become the international lingua franca.

Yes, sometimes we native speakers witness abherrations of the English language that we may see as communicative incompetence. However, we are helpless to control its phenomenal spread, and we are blind to believe that this debate should center purely around intelligibility, standards or varieties.

If you taught English in S. Korea, you may find their usage even more amusing than Taiwan’s. Konglish


#10

Hey - I had a look at Konglish - sort of crp that gives the one-eyed English scholars of this world a bad name. Half of what he identifies as “Konglish” would have different meanings in many English (first language) speaking countries.


#11
quote[quote]What standard can communication be judged by rather than kandedong jiu hao or tingdedong jiu hao? To me, those are some mighty high standards of quality.[/quote] If that's true, then the phrase "I feel so boring!" and the response "Either do I!" as uttered by one Taiwan youngster to another, are examples of high quality speech, as both parties are communicating intelligibly.

Sorry, but if we keep stooping to the lowest common denominator, soon we’ll all be speaking in grunts and yowls. Excellence in language, as in any other endeavour, takes time and discipline, even for native speakers. The results will be obvious - even to those less talented.


#12

Look–I deeply admire the English skill that most Taiwanese can speak. The differences in our languages are vast, and the amount of effort it takes to just communicate the basics takes a lot of hard work and focus.

The signs we see around town, or the incredibly stupifying “Taiwan Haiku” phrases we’re going to see this Winter o the back of jackets are hilarious. It definitely ads to the charm of Taiwan.

If you ask most of the Taiwanese who are earnestly wanting to communicate–especially the ones who want to further their careers–they will tell you how important it is to learn proper English. In the same way that I know I’d be limiting a career in Asia by only speaking a simplified “pidgin” Chinese, they are dedicated to learn how to learn English well enough to communicate effectively with people from other countries.

“I feel so boring” is fine for communicating to somebody who makes the same wrong assumption about the meaning. But if that same child grows up and writes that way in an e-mail to a native English speaker, they can make career-ending errors. I work with Taiwanese who, fortunately for me, mostly speak English. But I’ve had countless e-mails that I’ve had to clear up because the grammar was muddled enough that the meaning of it was changed.

Using a common language makes communication easier. Speaking it badly enough that the meaning is less clear only hurts the speaker.


#13

It’s worth mentioning that learning to speak English as an international language has been forced down the throats of people all over the world.

There are people everywhere who cannot even communicate effectively with their doctors because there aren’t words to describe their ailments in their native tongue. Something like 95% of WWW content is in English. Technology is available only to those who have some English ability. And why does Taiwan only get a mention on CNN when there’s a disaster? How fair is that?

In places such as Taiwan, English resources are limited, as are opportunities to communicate with native speakers.
What you’re advocating is that Taiwanese should speak proper or standard forms of English, but their chances to do so are few.

Also, in places such as Singapore, English has become so prevalent that many folks cannot even speak with their relatives in their mother tongues. This, they see, as a problem, and have now enforced Mandarin.
Considering that Singaporeans originate from a variety of Chinese dialects, but that Mandarin and English are now the more desired languages, then what has and will happen to the other languages there?
That is called language genocide.

So, who are you to complain about Taiwanese speakers of English? Would you propose they disregard their own languages in order to speak a purer and more acceptable form of standard English? So, should they spell it tyre or tire?

How about if the US loses this war on terrorism, and we’re all forced to learn Arabic? And if you can’t get your ‘hhhhhhaaaaacs’ and trills down right, then you’ll be the target of ridicule?

Get real. This is an extremely HUGE political argument which touches on issues much deeper than the smokescreen of ‘I feel boring’…

How ethical is it to teach English so the world’s children believe it will automatically entitle them to a better job, fancier car, bigger house, and a better life?


#14

Alien,

I am really curious how you see these people as such victims. I don’t see their attempt to master English as any different from my studying Spanish, Russian or Chinese. Where you see poor waifs being oppressed by Evil Imperialists I see the same phenomenon that has been happening for thousands of years: if you want to get ahead, you have to learn the language that can help you get ahead. It’s as basic as that. Two thousand years ago (in the West) it was Latin. Spanish and French are two other languages that have become de facto “international languages” in the past. In Asia it has been sometimes Chinese and Japanese.

You wrote:

quote[quote] Would you propose they disregard their own languages in order to speak a purer and more acceptable form of standard English? [/quote]

How are they “disregarding” their own language by speaking clearer English? Are you saying they can’t learn to speak more than one language effectively? Quit selling these people short. Your shallow regard for the strength of these people doesn’t make sense.

Most of my ancestors didn’t speak English. Do I feel like I’m a living cultural vacuum? Have I abandoned my “culture” or “roots”? Every culture evolves. That is what is happening in Asia. Cultures are not static. You cannot freeze a culture and preserve it.

“Language genocide”? Cut the hyperbole.

There are places all over the world that speak a very localized and hard-to-understand (to speakers of the standard form) English. Fine. But any one of these people who want to travel and expand their interests beyond those places has to learn the English that is COMMON English.

Anybody from the Southern US who speaks English with a too-strong accent and bad grammar will be limiting themselves just as badly as any mis-speaking Taiwanese will.

Mandarin Chinese will probably become a much more dominant language in the next hundred years. My descendents will have to come to terms with that if they want to have the ability to communicate with those in power. Does that make the Chinese imperialists? Should I cry over the hours I’ve put into learning Chinese characters and the tones?
Do I cry that my grandchildren might never speak English? No. I want them to speak the language(s) that make(s) them communicate effectively. And I want them to speak it well.


#15

So spanky - and others - stop crying - face up to it - just now English is THE MOST useful language if you want to travel or do business GLOBALLY. If you travel a lot you are more likely to find someone who can speak English than any other language. Sure, you may have some better ideas if you have a particular group of countries, or a single country in mind, and have some command of some other languages.

Mandarin is theoreticly the most spoken language in the world - The China government made it the official language - (Instant learning for the half billion plus who never uttered a word in Mandarin in their lives) - A very very big proportion of those cannot ever leave their villages (and their local dialects), let alone their country.

And the Taiwan version of Manderin is the most useful language here - oops - or should it be Taiwanese - or???


#16
quote[quote] On TV, I've seen this show which used the line: "The Pity of War" (what???). [/quote]

I’m not trying to defend generally stupid and unintelligible English nor, as a non-TV viewer, do I know in what context this phrase was used but there is nothing wrong with the phrase itself. It is actually part of a rather famous quote from Wilfred Owen about his poetry: “My subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.”
This phrase “the pity of war” was also used as the title of a book by Niall Ferguson on the First World War.


#17

This is my personal favorite:

謝謝光臨 translated into:

“thank you kind words.”

Keep this thread up, it’s fun!

But Alien can save her theories about “linguistic Imperialism” for cultures that may actually be in danger of dying out.

“Language genocide,” as she calls it, is a natural phenomenon that has happened thousands of times before and will probably happen thousands of times in the future. In a world growing closer together, a common means of communicating is necessary and desirable. If this common language is not English, it should be French or Chinese. But to object to the unification of language is not only futile, it is counter-productive. Language barriers are one of the roots of intercultural conflict, because they impede a society’s ability to air its grievances with another and settle problems peacefully, as well as its ability to compete economically.

I have much more to say about this, but I’ll stop for now.


#18

Thanks Zaphod. Seems you have two heads…

Many scholars have pointed out the limitations and dangers of monoparadigmatc Western thought.
As suggested by Rajni Kothari (1987), “Human progress has been conflated with development, development with modernization, and modernization with westernization. Science has been conflated with technology. Together with the myth of value neutrality, the splitting of religion and morality from scientific questions, and the ever-increasing autonomy and primacy of technology, these conflations have led to policies and practices that ultimately justify ecocide and ethnocide. Once Western science came to be used as secular justification of Western dominance, other forms of Western thought also came to be seen as superior, leading to a massive process of cultural and epistemological colonization, privileging one form of culture or knowledge over others.”

It would seem then, if you can get past the rubric, that English as an International language, merely serves as the instrument by which the West ‘threatens to overwhelm mankind with an homogenizing monoculture of the mind.’

Just look at this forum as an example. Westerners, mostly, seem to write in about all the troubles they’re having with the Taiwanese, be it official red tape, legalities, rights issues, or the like. The values which are ingrained in our societies are those which tend to question authority, and thus, when dealing with such issues here, we’re confounded by the Chinese approach and we’re often critical of the system. That is a very ethnocentric view, and one which western culture rationalises as universalism!?

Now, imagine for a moment, that you have grown up in Afghanistan. Your religion plays a primary role in your culture, and if culture can be defined as ‘how one makes sense of the world’, then disregard for your beliefs by outside influences which are rich and powerful, might make you a bit angry and defensive too.

In this, I’m not claiming to be innocent of my own brand of ethnocentricity. How could anyone?

I’m only trying to point out that the world is, and should be, a strange and diverse place, and we may want to be more cautious in our criticisms of other cultures’ values, or their ability to speak English properly. Especially these days.


#19
quote[quote]It would seem then, if you can get past the rubric, that English as an International language, merely serves as the instrument by which the West 'threatens to overwhelm mankind with an homogenizing monoculture of the mind.'[/quote] "Merely"? Aren't we being a little melodramatic? The West does not have an agenda per se. There is no cultural "Manifest Destiny" that all western nations have quietly agreed upon. If anything, it is the non-western nations that have decided almost unanimously to try to achieve what the west has accomplished in terms of technology, standard of living and (sadly in some cases) culture.
quote[quote]Now, imagine for a moment, that you have grown up in Afghanistan. Your religion plays a primary role in your culture, and if culture can be defined as 'how one makes sense of the world', then disregard for your beliefs by outside influences which are rich and powerful, might make you a bit angry and defensive too. In this, I'm not claiming to be innocent of my own brand of ethnocentricity. How could anyone? I'm only trying to point out that the world is, and should be, a strange and diverse place, and we may want to be more cautious in our criticisms of other cultures' values, or their ability to speak English properly. Especially these days.[/quote]

Criticisms should never be levelled lightly, but that does not mean we should refrain from criticism. To do so would be an attempt to neuter our own values. You brought up Afghanistan, for example. Basically the West ignored Afghanistan, even though we viewed their treatment of their own citizens, especially women with contempt. We felt that it was their right to exercise intolerance amongst themselves, if that’s what they wanted. However, once their brand of intolerance became a danger to the West, then it was the duty of the West to “be intolerant of intolerance”, so to speak. I’m sure that if the Taliban just wanted to play at oppressing their own people and blowing up the cultural artifacts located within their borders, the West would have been happy to live and let live. The decison to impose values through force was made by Bin Laden, and the Al-Quaeda, and indirectly the Taliban, and ultimately the society that allowed these groups to exist. Now it is time for us to criticize their values, and knock them around until they can come up with a value system that allows for us to live in peace. The tragedy is in all the innocents that are always casualties of war.

I know we have digressed from the main topic here, but the ideas of quality, what is good, values, and standards of excellence are all inextricably linked. It’s a discussion worth having.


#20
quote[quote]... it is the non-western nations that have decided almost unanimously to try to achieve what the west has accomplished in terms of technology, standard of living and (sadly in some cases) culture. [/quote]

You’re right!
But this isn’t to say that Orientalism (policies in favour of education in local languages for both the colonisers and the colonised) was replaced by Anglicism (policies in favour of education in English), rather those two ideologies began to operate along side each other. This suggests that the denial of access to English may have been as important for colonialism as the insistence on English. As Alastair Pennycook asserts “People have little choice but to demand access to English.”

Looking at an example from British colonial rule in India, in 1800, Governor General Marquess Wellesley established the College of Fort William in Calcutta. The aim was to educate the East India Company officials in Indian languages, culture and legal systems. Later it turned out, the Indian bourgeoisie opposed those policies feeling excluded from access to social, political and economic advancement, which they felt was dependent on an English education. They later set up The Hindu College in 1816, which provided an education in English language and literature, Western philosophy and social and natural sciences. It gave them more of an advantage in their unequal power relationship with the British.
So you see, in the case of colonialism, or of western nations having an agenda, the expansion of English came about more as a link to social and economic prestige.

Got work to do. More later.