Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chinglish Revisited, Once Again

We should take a minute to lament these last few weeks before the Olympics of the eradication of Chinglish that has taken place in Beijing over the past year in preparation for the games. They claim that signs on stores that read 'Face a Guest Soil Special Product Supermarket' are a national embarrassment, and are being removed and retranslated at an alarming rate.

While this brings up a number of issues that I won't go into here, such as the question of whether Beijing is whitewashing the city and giving a false impression of what life in China is really like, it robs the foreigner living in China of one of our most treasured games - 'Find the most ridiculously translated English sign in the city'.

In the midst of this lamentation, there's a fantastic article in Wired Magazine about the influence that Chinglish is having on the English language. It's an intimidating figure to think about - that there are actually more English speakers living in China than in America. As language is a constantly evolving organism, it seems a bit un-American to think that another country may have more control over the direction of our language than we do. Don't say you weren't warned.

Check out the link.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hanoi Intersection at Night

I've been riding my bike to work and around town a lot lately. I ride my bike with somewhat of the same philosophy as when I drive my car. Allow me elaborate. 

When I have a problem with my car, I intentionally ignore it for weeks or months on end, subconsciously hoping that my car completely dies and I'll be forced to walk and ride my bike everywhere. I know how irrational this is, but I still don't care. When my car does die, in reality, I'm completely screwed, but part of me will be very happy.

Somewhat similarly, when I ride my bike, I intentionally play near chicken with oncoming vehicles. I obey no traffic lights, I pull out in front of cars unexpectedly, and take up way too much of a lane. People get legitimately upset with me, and I just can't understand why. My thoughts are, 'Serves them right for driving a car! I will make it as difficult as possible for motorists so that no one will ever drive a car again.' Once again, a completely rational idea.

Part of my bicyclical recklessness comes from riding my bike in China. There, there were no rules. As I've said before, the only rule was you couldn't occupy the same exact place as another vehicle at the same exact time. It worked perfectly. There were no traffic signals, no crosswalks, nothing. People just drove somewhat slowly, and expected people to pull out in front of them.

I found a video online of a Hanoi intersection at night that reminded me of everything I love about riding my bike in China.

Hanoi crazy night traffic from v!Nc3sl4s on Vimeo.