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Friday, February 24, 2006

foreign words and letters

It's quite common for T-shirt companies, cd covers, sweaters, etc to use Chinese or Japanese characters when they want an especially cool look. And, when such products sell well it proves that we do consider these things cool, and they DO appeal to the public. Theres a certain artistic appearance to those elaborate foreign characters - when compared and contrasted to our own simple letters.

So, why do people feel so perplexed by these characters? - viewing them with such a heightened sense of mystique when their native users use them as commonly as we use our own letters? Do people admire the artistic element or visual appeal of these characters? Do they have a natural affinity for Asian cultures? Or, do they recognize them as trendy and think that by displaying them on either their person or posessions they will be considered trendy in return?

Who knows? Who can say why other people like them - personally I just admire their for their beauty and complexity (and the way that one symbol can represent a whole word). I am interested in Asian cultures, but that's not why I like their written characters. My admiration of the characters, though, may be one of the many things that started that interest.

When we're all so preoccupied with admiration for other written forms, we usually don't consider that our own writing may be similiarly popular in the very countries of the written forms we admire. So, I was very surprised to learn that it's true - in some places!

A friend of mine explained that, in Japan, English words and letters are used to add an extra element of coolness to product packaging, apparrel, cd coverss, song lyrics - basically the same ploy for foreign appeal practiced by U.S. manufactures. It's kind of odd, yet interesting, to picture a Japanese kid going ballistic with joy because the sweater they got for their birthday says something like. . . say. . . "snowboarding", in English on the sleeve. O.K., I'm not sure if this actually happens in Japan, but I know that my brother had that reaction when he got a shirt that had dragons and chinese (or japanese) characters on it - so I'm just creating a reversed scenario.

It's very intriguing. Yet, it's also sad, if you consider the implications of exactly why English's popularity is growing in Japan, as it is in many other parts of the world. The answer is westernization. And, there are many young people who welcome, even aim for, westernization. But, notice that I say many, NOT ALL - since the push towards westernization is met with resistance - thankfully - in many cases too.

English is progressively becoming a more and more, . . . . What could one call it? A global language? I say this because many people I know say that in their countries English is regularly taught along with their own language. For example, young people in both Malaysia and Japan are taught English. And, many of them know a third language even. Knowinging three languages: this is not uncommon in Malaysia. It would, however, be uncommon here.

Few young Americans truly know a second language, let alone a third one! You have to wonder: if more, or ALL young Americans learned to speak a second language, would there be more balance of language use in the world? I mean, If more Americans spoke other languages, would it be less necessary for other countries to learn English? "Definately!," I'd say, but no one can know for sure. I think it'd be a nice gesture on the part of the U.S. - and England though.

Other countries do a lot to prevent their own westernization, but I think the west also needs to work at preventing westernization(stop the problems it's creating). I am not at all saying that if I learn another language I'd be doing it for the purpose of preventing westernization. Not at all! That would be silly to even think! I'd just learn it for personal interest. I'm just one person. The only way learning other languages could fight westernization is if like 50% or more of America learned other languages.

It's true that high school requires students to take two years of another language - but that doesn't seem like enough. Most students will never speak that language fluently, or even remember much of it. I'm not sure how they teach English to the students of other countries, but our own language program needs to be more extensive, or else chilren could be taught at an age younger - preferably far younger than high school. They say that humans retain languge most efficiently at about kintergarten age.

I'd like to describe how English is taught in Japan, but I had that conversation with my friend a LONG LONG time ago. I'd be too afraid of misremembering something. It's ok to misremember something when I'm writing abou my own life - but it's a whole nother thing to misrepressent another countri's education program. I'd have to interview (just talk to really) some people before I dared to write about it in detail. I think that would make a good topic for another blog though.


I found some information. Just click on: This is an opinionated document I found that describes methods of teaching English in Japan. But keep in mind, that it contains merely the opinions and observations of ONE person. Peoples' views can be wrong. After I talk with my friend, perhaps I can compare and contrast what she says with what this writer says.

1 Comments:

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

I laughed at the garbled English he talked about!

 

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