Thursday, July 22, 2010

Has Chinese become the language of corruption? 中文 - 教唆腐败欺骗的语言


语言是文化的载体。 腐败虚无的文化自然地产生腐败虚无的语言。 爱滋病人会用爱滋病毒将爱滋病传给所有的人。 这就是语言与文化的关系。

Kai Chen's Words:

Language is only a tool and carrier of certain culture. Corrupt and nihilistic cultures produce corrupt and nihilistic languages. It is just like an AIDS patient using HIV to infect the others with AIDS. This is the relationship between a culture and its language.


Has Chinese become the language of corruption?

中文 - 教唆腐败欺骗的语言

Source: Global Times [21:03 March 09 2010] Comments By Lu Yueyang

A: Women de shiqing pa shi zhi bao bu zhu huo a!(Something's come up. I am afraid we can't keep it wrapped.)

B: Shenme zhuang kuang?(What is it?)

A: Gongsi kaishi huaiyi le.(The company's accountant is starting to suspect something.)

B: Yige xiao kuaiji, pa shenme? Gaoding ta hai bu rongyi? Ni ziji kanzheban ba.(A little accountant. What are you afraid of? Taking care of him is no big deal. You figure it out yourself.)
This is not a drama. This is a dialogue my Swedish friend Jojji actually learned in his recent Chinese class.

The "Funny Business" dialogues take place in a typical Chinese office, with familiar characters like "little Zhao" and "Manager Wang" talking about daily business.

But I can't see anything funny in the "Funny Business" lesson. I feel quite ashamed instead. As a person who still considers Chinese to be the most beautiful language in the world, I find it appalling that corruption, foul play or the so-called unspoken rules can be related to a Chinese lesson.

What should I say to my friend? Should I say that it is not true, or that it is true but foreigners are not entitled to know?

They certainly do. People not only learn the language but also the culture behind it; otherwise the effort-requiring process of language learning is totally worthless. It is the access to a new world that rewards and pleases language learners.

But, what kind of world does Chinese learning lead to nowadays? What Chinese learners discover through learning the Chinese language?

English is regarded as the language of modernity, just like French for art and German for philosophy. But when it comes to the Chinese classroom, learners are now studying the language of the account manipulator, the money launderer or even the corrupt official!

I always assumed that my mother tongue would introduce learners to the world of poetry, calligraphy and oriental beauty. How anachronistic I was.

Chinese language learners are now attempting to learn the so-called Chinese wisdom of twisting rules and playing dirty tricks, just like Little Zhao is taught to do in "Funny Business" dialogues. My friend said he found them quite useful and practical when it came to doing business in China.

There is nothing wrong with Chinese learners or the language itself. Usually we are proud to hear that more people are learning Chinese than ever before: Isn't it a sign of our country's rise? There is even a pop song called The whole world is speaking Chinese.

However, can we still be proud, if Chinese language learners find "Funny Business" more useful in China than Confucian aphorisms?

According to the Chinese Language Council International, China has built 282 Confucius Institutes and 241 Confucius Classrooms throughout the world. As billions have been spent, do we have an idea of what we can offer?

What values can we contribute to the world through Chinese learning? "Funny Busi-ness" is by no means the soft power we thought we were putting forward.

Ironically, the Confucian Institute itself isn't entirely blameless. Recent revelations that Hanban, the parent body of the Institutes, spends over 35 million yuan a year on the Institute's main website alone has left the public wondering where all the money is going. The agency might be suffering from a little funny business of its own.

A Shanghai taxi driver said to me years ago, "The foreigner who speaks good Chinese is the worst of all." I was on a business trip then, and came across this metropolitan driver who seemed to have seen a lot of the world.

What he really meant by was, that the foreigner who spoke good Chinese would neither give him tips nor tolerate him taking a long detour.

To be precise, the driver should have said that the foreigner who behaves like a Chinese is the worst of all.

What kind of lessons are we teaching the outside world?

The author is a journalist who is now studying at the University of Hong Kong. maggielu@ gmail. com

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