The Unbearable Banishment: Foreign tongues

Monday, February 14, 2011

Foreign tongues

Years ago, 9-Year Old Daughter used to watch a show called Dora the Explorer. It was a program designed to teach rudimentary Spanish to Caucasian suburbanite children. I thought it was a pretty clever use of programming for the pre-K set. I reasoned that aside from English, Spanish would be the most useful language learn.

Flash to four years later.

I was walking though the family room and 4-Year Old Daughter was watching TV. It was another foreign language primer but it wasn't Dora or her cousin Diego. She was watching Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. This program teaches basic Chinese words and phrases to children. Boy if THAT isn't a sign of the times! (Ni Hao = hello and Kai-Lan is the character.)

I find this all a bit unsettling. I'm not a fan of China. The government is one of the most corrupt and oppressive on the planet. China's economic success is built on stolen and pirated American technology. They are guilty of keeping the Yuan artificially low on the international currency markets, the result of which is contributing to a sustained high unemployment rate for the world and an overheated inflation-prone economic headache for them. And don't get me started on their bullshit Olympics with their computer-generated fireworks cute girl lip-synching "Ode to the Motherland."

On a personal note, not long ago I worked for a woman who was Chinese. She was the stereotypical high strung, shrill-voiced, joyless, workaholic, dragon lady slave master. She was single-handedly responsible for nine months of unrelenting misery.

So I'd prefer that my daughter not develop warm feelings for China or its culture. Does anyone know how to say "bugger off, Kai-Lan" in Cantonese?


Blogger Sausage said...

Is this real????
SF is rolling up his sleeves ready to back you in another street fight, knowing the comments might get rough.
bring it people...
China = Scary

February 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

SF: Now that you mention it, I guess this is a little more sever than the Beatles vs. Stones provication of my last post. I might need your help.

February 14, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh you say that now, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Napoleon wasn't a complete idiot when it came to global politics. Perhaps a more useful phrase to learn would be, "I, for one, welcome our new Chinese masters".

February 14, 2011 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Sausage said...

Based on how some people reacted to your "Afghan" post from last week, I expected WWIII on China.
Maybe not

February 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Nimpipi said...

You're being paranoid, you know na? This isn't about you being/ not being a fan of China. The language is not easy. If she picks it up, her brain will open up in all sorts of genius ways. Credit the kid with some sense and allow that, please? Yes? There's a good daddy. Now I don't have to call you names.

February 14, 2011 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

SF: Perhaps I need to develop a better sensitivity (see above).

Hi Nimpipi! Nice of you to stop in. To yell at me. Please pardon my bad associations. They are not of my own design.

February 14, 2011 at 2:51 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

But if we overthrow their government we'll just be hungry to overthrow some other government in an hour or two...

February 14, 2011 at 10:27 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

Hmmmmm.... I think I disagree UB. My boss is Chinese and I work with a lot of Chinese nurses and while they are excellent at their job, where they really excel is with their people skills. Asian cultures place a lot of emphasis on 'saving face' and not showing negative emotions. When you're a professional dealing with extremely difficult patients that's a great attribute to have.

February 15, 2011 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

How times change and how lethal is propaganda. Way, way back we were educated that the Chinese were the oppressed goodies and the Japanese beyond the pale.
Experience teaches one to take people as you find them.

February 15, 2011 at 5:07 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: I have no desire to overthrow the Chinese government. That never works our! Let them revolt from within, as they did in Egypt.

Nurse: I can respect that but I had a terrible, terrible experience with a Chinese boss and I have allowed it to color my judgment.

Pat: Duly noted. But the government should play fair on the world economic stage. And be a lot kinder to its people.

February 15, 2011 at 6:09 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

yeah i don't think it's China who's the problem (or at least the whole problem), i believe it to be the captains of industry, you know they refuse any tariff/tax on anything Chinese, god forbid they lose the cheap labor or billion plus consumers and i believe those captains for the most part are all WASPs, if we just adjusted all the goods imported from China to adjust for their monetary manipulation their shit wouldn't be so cheap, of course get those red state free market addicts to agree to that and you'd be king.

February 15, 2011 at 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm, dude, the Chinese currency is Yuan, not Yen. That'd be Japanese.

February 15, 2011 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

I agree with Pat [did you spot that sideways manoeuvre?].
But it's true, the media are always dishing up new things to make us feel worried and fearful. Why? Because in this state we are easier to control.

February 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I don't really know any Chinese people, other than a couple patients at the hospital. They're very nice.

However, the Chinese drivers in Vancouver are mental!!! There were so many times I wished I was driving a beater when I lived there, just so I could let one of the ignorant, lane hogging, cut-you-off-in-the-blink-of-an-eye expensive sports car driving idiots could hit me... and it would be their fault! I think I wore out my brakes in that city.

February 15, 2011 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kono: I'm put off by the Chinese government's internal mechanics. Aside from the aforementioned thievery, they routinely shut down the internet and deny basic freedoms. They'll get theirs. You'll see.

Anon: Oh, shit! You're right! Duly noted and edited. Thanks. An honest mistake.

Scarlet: I have been influenced by the copious negative articles in the New York Times (if only half of them are true then there's cause to worry) and personal experience. You don't want to catch yourself buying into a stereotype but it's hard not to when it's starring you in the face.

Ponita: Another stereotype that is rooted in truth! Everyone in New York City knows to STEER CLEAR of insane Chinese drivers.

February 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Here In Franklin said...

UB--I've been thinking about this one for a while, trying to formulate my response. There are plenty of negative things to say about China and the government is definitely oppressive in many ways.

But I will say that my husband travels there 2 or 3 times a year and is fond of his Chinese clients and associates. Please note that he SELLS highly technical machinery to the Chinese--he is not BUYING Chinese merchandise as so many Americans there do. He has been selling there for several years now and no one has stolen his company's technology.

His Chinese agent is coming to the United States next week and will be a guest in our home when he and my husband aren't traveling around the U.S. looking at equipment. I look forward to entertaining him and repaying some of the hospitality he has shown my husband over the years.

There are certainly cultural differences between our two nations that will always be there--just like there are between us and any other nation. But personally, I find North Korea lots scarier.

February 15, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

HIF: First and foremost, I completely agree about North Korea. The Chinese government is unkind to its citizens, but at least they don't starve them to death.

I wish I had as intimate an encounter with China as your husband has. A big criticism of Americans -- one that's justified -- is that we are an insular nation. We live within our own boarders and rarely venture out. My negativity is not born from any first-hand knowledge of the country. It comes from what I've taken in in the media. And I don't like what I read.

I'm going to hazard to say that your husband might risk his business ventures in China if the government found out he suddenly started criticizing the Party and vigorously defending an open society. His Chinese counterparts can come to the U.S. and say whatever the hell they want about President Obama, which is as it should be. That difference feeds my negativity.

I'm glad your husband has robust business relationships with China. But the fact is that the U.S. has lost many billions of dollars in pirated software, movies, cell phones, etc., all done with the government's blessing.

Finally, I don't want to overplay this but I went through a very dark and unhappy time because I worked for a tyrant. Tyrants come in all shapes and sizes but this one happened to be Chinese. This was over two years ago and I still seethe when I think about her.

Thanks for your thoughtful response. After I posted this, I remembered that you have a connection with China and was worried that you were going to be offended.

February 15, 2011 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Eryl said...

My judgement regarding China is also coloured: any culture that can develop a cuisine like that can't be all bad. The government is shit, true, but maybe if your four year old learns the language she'll be able to go and sort them out.

February 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

china is like james bond villain, basically

February 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Eryl: Hummm...I *do* love dumplings. I might have to reconsider my position.

Anon: LOL! That's hilarious! Thanks!

February 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Here In Franklin said...

UB--No offense taken, I promise, though you're sweet to worry. As for letting one woman color your view of the country--to this day I instantly dislike any woman named Linda because of a grade-school nemesis. How's that for irrantional thought?

February 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a little flippant now...走开

It means go away. Close enough?

February 15, 2011 at 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be very careful there, boyo. You will get into huge problems criticizing any culture, this is a no no, the last taboo. Remaining publically opinion neutral on culture is the best bet.

February 16, 2011 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

HIF: I'm relieved you're not pissed. This could have gone horribly wrong. Am also glad to hear you carry unhealthy obsessions, as well. Thanks!

MIT: Oh, you're fancy! Are you bilingual?

Anon: Too damn late, as you can plainly see.

February 16, 2011 at 9:05 AM  
Anonymous nicole said...


February 18, 2011 at 9:48 AM  

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