Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shanghai Trip Day 18 - China is so Chinese...

I had heard this phrases from my Philipino colleague on my first day in Shanghai and I couldn't make any sense of it then. But when i went to a McD to have a burger, i realized how big a challenge it is here for people to talk in English. Thankfully, I am living in an area which was a French Confession so the place is already exposed to European culture and hence English. And after all, McD, being an American brand has ensured that the caterers know a basic English. But, I have not been able to go to a chinese restaurant alone because most of the chinese restaurant do not have an English menu. And I do not want to eat beef by mistake...

The taxi drivers can't understand any English, which is acceptable because I did not expect taxi-drivers to be highly educated. In fact, they are higly educated and to explain my destination more conveniently, it is preferred that I let him read the name of my destination written in Chinese than say the name of it. That means they can read and write, but only Chinese. Even, people in my office, who have struggled hard to learn English, mostly get lost by my English and I have been often told to speak slowly and use simpler words.... Oh Come On !!! me and English. I am anyways considered a struggler in English back home. What if these men get to encounter the educated indians.

At first, I frawned a lot on the fact that even in the most developed city of China, English is so uncommon. In fact, even the bar girls of Bangkok spoke better English than here. But then I thought, may be it is a sign of sovereignty. Despite european presence in China, China is still completely Chinese. The internet and mobile industry is more developed than it is USA and there are chinese websites similar to the famous english ones. There is Baidu in place of Google, Taobao in place of Amazon and Xiaonei in place of orkut/facebook and these are original indigenous chinese websites. Mobiles here are fully equipped with doing all the functions in Chinese.

Now, when I think of how Indians can be so fluent in English, it does not make me proud. I can smell some amount of colonial blood still flowing through us, that English still remains a more important language for us than any Indian language. Several other Asian countries, like China, Japan and Korea have managed to grow faster than us without any strong hold on the foreign language while today the only regret my not-so-successful cousin has that he was educated in a Hindi medium school and hence could not do as well in his career as I did being an English mediunm educated kid. That hurts. Why? I don't know. If Indians do not know English, you can see a strand of shame on their face that they are not fully equipped. But chinese not knowing English really doesn't matter to them. They are still doing great and they will elarn the language if they need to. Most of the young generation already has.

While I crib for not being able to communicate here because of the lack of English, I also salute the Chinese for being able to preserve there own language and culture despite the strong advent of Globalization.Probably, there is some lesson for us to learn. What exactly, I don't know.

2 comments:

Sleepwalker said...

colonial blood my ass. there is nothing wrong in learning another language to be able to understand / make understand other people. not knowing other languages is like being a frog in the well.

CMT said...

my only contention is that knowing one's own language does not end up in success in India, while it does in China. It is good to know another language, but should not be a compulsion.