Posts tagged ‘English language’

25/09/2016

Culture: Chinese, Indian and Japanese

I’ve just finished watching a short six-part series featuring Joanna Lumley on her trip from near the northern-most tip to the southern-most island of Japan – http://www.itv.com/hub/joanna-lumleys-japan/2a4327a0001. If, like me, you have not been to Japan but are curious about that mysterious far eastern country, then this show is well worth investing six hours of your time.

But the reason I’m raising it here on my blog is that to me it shows in stark contrast the three cultures today: Chinese, Indian and Japanese.

The series illustrate, without a shadow of doubt, that the Japanese have somehow managed to retain most of its old traditions and culture while adopting much of (the best of ) Western culture.The two co-exist happily and without any visible friction.  For example, young girls in traditional kimono are shown visiting the famous cherry blossom festival, alongside Japanese in plain western clothing. Or modern, educated Japanese taking time off to do a multi-temple pilgrimage (see Lumley photo). 

The Chinese, in my opinion, have (certainly in urban areas) disbanded most of their traditional and culture – apart from a few national festivals – and adopted western customs and culture wholesale. Apart from a few speialist travelogue TV series on rural China (http://watchdocumentary.org/watch/wild-china-episode-01-heart-of-the-dragon-video_3a9158d41.html), any TV show on China reveals mainly western modernity.

And finally, my take on Indian culture is that it has not moved far from what has been prevalent over the centuries, apart from a thin veneer of western culture and customs such as car ownership (see India on Wheels – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013q5y0) and western clothing or education for the upper class in the English language.

I would really like to hear from you, my blog readers, on this subject, hopefully based on personal experience rather than based on a TV programme!

 

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20/02/2015

Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters

China’s top cotton producer, a quasi-military body formed 60 years ago to settle the far west Xinjiang area, is resisting a government policy that could force it to cut output in an industry employing hundreds of thousands in the restive region.

Farmers stack cotton at a cotton purchase station in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in this November 3, 2010 file picture. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Beijing has pledged to end a costly stockpiling program that has artificially inflated cotton prices and in Xinjiang helped underpin an influx of Han Chinese workers, creating friction in an area home to the Muslim Uighur people.

Reluctant to accept the current weak market price, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) has asked the government to buy part of its crop and store it in state reserves, said two trade sources with knowledge of the issue.

XPCC, also known as the army corps, or ‘bingtuan’, has become a sort of state within a state and gained a dominant role in industries such as cotton, where it employs about 200,000 mainly Han Chinese on some of Xinjiang’s best land.

“Cotton is intimately associated with land usage, ownership, employment and Han in-migration. It’s all tied up,” said Tom Cliff, a scholar at the Australian National University.

Beijing has promised subsidies to help cushion the impact of ending stockpiling, but the total amount is unclear and with the local cotton price plunging any threat to the industry could be a fresh source of competition for jobs.

via Top China cotton producer resists reforms in restive Xinjiang | Reuters.

30/09/2014

China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek

The increase in China’s elderly people to more than 200 million has created a host of challenges, from a shrinking labor force to soaring pension needs. But there’s a silver-haired lining.

China's Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion 'Silver Hair' Market

The market of goods and services for China’s rapidly aging population will reach 4 trillion yuan ($652 billion) this year, or eight percent of GDP, according to the “China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry” issued Tuesday in Beijing.

The industry is expected to rise to 106 trillion yuan ($17 trillion) by 2050, amounting to a third of the Chinese economy. That would make it the world’s largest market for the aged. That year China will have 480 million people over 60—one quarter of the world’s elderly—says the report, which was published Sept. 23 by the China National Committee on Aging.

“The silver hair industry has started the rapid booming phase, making it a new promising industry in China,” said Wu Yushao, deputy director of the committee, reports the China Dailytoday. “The major reason for the boom is based on the growing number of aging people.”

Future opportunities to serve the elderly will be clustered in four main fields, the report explains. Those include appliances (to serve the less-mobile elderly, for example), services (such as home care and special transportation), real estate (assisted living centers), and financial services. The latter—insurance and money management for the elderly, for example—will make up the biggest portion of the market and still has lots of room to grow.

While 6.21 million people work in the U.S. financial industry and more than half focus on retirees, China has only 5.27 million, estimates Dang Junwu, deputy head of the Beijing’s Chinese Research Center on Aging. “There has been a huge gap in the financing industry for senior residents between China and the developed countries,” Dang told the English-language paper.

via China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek.

04/09/2014

China Fights Local Budget Corruption With ‘Economic Constitution’ – Businessweek

Revising a budget law, as China’s National People’s Congress just did, sure doesn’t sound very sexy. But Sunday’s move is a crucial step toward fixing some of China’s biggest economic challenges: controlling runaway local debt; curbing rampant official corruption, and stemming the spread of socially destabilizing land seizures.

The Shanghai skyline

The amended law that now requires local governments to publicize their annual budgets is so important that some are calling it the “Economic Constitution,” the China Daily reported on Sept. 1. The revision “will prove a milestone in China’s fiscal history, as it will make the government’s collection of taxes and fees and distribution of its fiscal money to become more law-based and transparent,” the English-language paper reports.

Until now, the finances of China’s tens of thousands of counties, townships, and villages have been split into budget and extra-budgetary funds. With much of the financing falling in the murkier off-budget category, “government departments have a great leeway in managing government funds, which can possibly lead to corruption and abuse of public funds,” the newspaper explains.

via China Fights Local Budget Corruption With ‘Economic Constitution’ – Businessweek.

13/08/2014

Class divide puts English to the test in India’s civil services

Indian students in recent weeks have protested the use of English in the country’s difficult civil service examinations. The students, usually from Hindi-speaking regions of India, say that the exams reflect a class divide: if you speak and write English well, you are seen as part of the educated, urban elite. If you do not, it’s because you are one of the disadvantaged, usually from smaller towns or villages.

English is a tricky subject in India. A language imposed by colonists who exploited the people and resources of the land for centuries, it also was the one language that people seeking independence from the British could use to speak to one another. It remains one of two official languages across India, though many people do not speak it well or at all. I spoke to some of the civil service aspirants who have complained about the language requirement and the structure of the exams, and learned about the role that they hope the exam will play in their lives.

Ashutosh Sharma is a 25-year-old psychology graduate from Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, who has been camping in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar neighbourhood for the past two years, hoping that he will crack the examination one day.

“The entire protest is presented as a language issue. It’s much more than that. It’s about how a group of elite people in the country want to govern the things. How they cannot digest that a villager, who doesn’t match their lavish lifestyle, rises to the ranks on the basis of his knowledge and hard work,” he said.

Ashutosh said he comes from a village, and is better acquainted with the problems the country faces in these places. “When I was in the village primary school, I remember that the teacher would hardly come to take classes. There was no accountability. As a district magistrate, I would know better how the problem can be fixed and I can deal with the problem regardless of whether I speak English or not.”

via India Insight.

23/05/2014

China Moves to Protect Its Language From English – Businessweek

Will the Chinese anti-English (American) language campaign be any more successful than the French one?  I wonder.

See – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/30/france-s-pointless-hopeless-battle-against-english.html

“Chinese authorities are waging a war on American culture and the use of English. In April, China’s media regulators yanked the popular U.S. television shows The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, and The Good Wife from Chinese streaming websites Sohu (SOHU) and Youku (YOKU). The official party newspaper, People’s Daily, ran two editorials in April bemoaning the use of words borrowed from English when speaking Chinese. Then in mid-May came a flurry of reports in the state media confirming plans announced last fall to reduce the importance of English-language instruction and to expand courses on traditional culture in grade school and high school.

The government “wants to make us respect the Chinese language and culture more,” says Guo Jintong, a 16-year-old Beijing high school student, as he sits in a Starbucks drinking a grande cappuccino. “With everyone wanting to go overseas to study, there is a craze for English and the West that you can say has become excessive. This could have a bad effect on China.” Guo says he plans to go to the U.S. for graduate school after getting his bachelor’s in physics in China.

China’s obsession with English dates to the establishment of foreign-language schools and translation centers—mainly for English—along China’s coast after the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century, says Yang Rui, director of the Comparative Education Research Center at the University of Hong Kong. And while Russian was the official second language during the 1950s, English again took primacy when Deng Xiaoping launched economic reforms in 1978 and China was eager for technology and investment from the West. (Yang learned English by secretly listening to banned Voice of America broadcasts during the Cultural Revolution, when speaking a foreign tongue could land you in jail.)”

via China Moves to Protect Its Language From English – Businessweek.

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05/11/2012

* Is English or Mandarin the language of the future?

BBC: “English has been the dominant global language for a century, but is it the language of the future? If Mandarin Chinese is to challenge English globally, then it first has to conquer its own backyard, South East Asia.

Mandarin-English dictionary

In Malaysia’s southernmost city of Johor Bahru, the desire to speak good English has driven some children to make a remarkable two-hour journey to school every day.

Nine-year-old Aw Yee Han hops on a yellow mini van at 04:30. His passport is tucked inside a small pouch hung around his neck.

This makes it easier for him to show it to immigration officials when he reaches the Malaysian border.

His school is located on the other side, in Singapore, where unlike in Malaysia, English is the main language.

It’s not your typical school run, but his mother, Shirley Chua thinks it’s worth it.

“Science and maths are all written in English so it’s essential for my son to be fluent in the language,” she says.

Continue reading the main story

Robert Lane Greene

Author of You Are What You Speak

The assumption that Mandarin will grow with China’s economic rise may be flawed. Consider Japan which, after spectacular post-war economic growth, became the world’s second-biggest economy. The Japanese language saw no comparable rise in power and prestige.

The same may prove true of Mandarin. The character-based writing system requires years of hard work for even native speakers to learn, and poses a formidable obstacle to foreigners. In Asia, where China’s influence is thousands of years old, this may pose less of a problem. But in the West, even dedicated students labour for years before they can confidently read a text of normal difficulty on a random topic.

Finally, many languages in Asia, Africa and the Amazon use “tones” (rising, falling, flat or dipping pitch contours) to distinguish different words. For speakers of tonal languages (like Vietnamese) learning the tones of Mandarin poses no particular difficulty. But speakers of non-tonal languages struggle to learn tones in adulthood – just ask any adult Mandarin-learner for their funniest story about using a word with the wrong tone.

An estimated 15,000 students from southern Johor state make the same bus journey across the border every day. It may seem like a drastic measure, but some parents don’t trust the education system in Malaysia – they worry that the value of English is declining in the country.

Since independence from the British in 1957, the country has phased out schools that teach in English. By the early 1980s, most students were learning in the national language of Malay.

As a result, analysts say Malaysian graduates became less employable in the IT sector.

“We’ve seen a drastic reduction in the standard of English in our country, not just among the students but I think among the teachers as well,” says political commentator Ong Kian Ming.

Those who believe that English is important for their children’s future either send their kids to expensive private schools or to Singapore, where the government has been credited as being far-sighted for adopting the language of its former colonial master.

Nearly three-quarters of the population in Singapore are ethnic Chinese but English is one of the national languages and very widely-spoken.

Many believe that this has helped the city state earn the title of being the easiest place to do business, by the World Bank.

Continue reading the main story

Lost in translation

Up to 7,000 different languages are estimated to be spoken around the world

Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French are world’s most widely spoken languages, according to UNESCO

Languages are grouped into families that share a common ancestry

English is related to German and Dutch, and all are part of Indo-European family of languages

Also includes French, Spanish and Italian, which come from Latin

2,200 of the world’s languages can be found in Asia, while Europe has 260

Source: BBC Languages

Read more about languages of the world

However, the dominance of English is now being challenged by the rise of China in Singapore.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber Institute of Business has added Chinese classes for business use in recent years.

Students are being taught in Mandarin rather than the Hokkien dialect spoken by the older Chinese immigrants.

These courses have proved popular, ever since the government began providing subsidies for Singaporeans to learn Chinese in 2009 during the global financial crisis.

“The government pushed to provide them with an opportunity to upgrade themselves so as to prepare themselves for the economic upturn,” says chamber spokesperson Alwyn Chia.

Some businesses are already desperate for Chinese speakers.

Lee Han Shih, who runs a multimedia company, says English is becoming less important to him financially because he is taking western clients to do business in China.

“So obviously you need to learn English but you also need to know Chinese,” says Mr Lee.

As China’s economic power grows, Mr Lee believes that Mandarin will overtake English. In fact, he has already been seeing hints of this.

“The decline of the English language probably follows the decline of the US dollar.

“If the renminbi is becoming the next reserve currency then you have to learn Chinese.”

More and more, he says, places like Brazil and China are doing business in the renminbi, not the US dollar, so there is less of a need to use English.”

via BBC News – Is English or Mandarin the language of the future?.

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