Articles on Language and Culture:
–“On Worldbuilding, Patchwork and Filing Off Serial Numbers”, at Khaalidah’s blog
–“Drawing Inspiration from Further Afield: fantasy set in non-Western Cultures”, at Aidan Moher’s blog
–“Narrative, Resonance and Genre” at SFnovelists
–“Traduttore, Traditore: translations, languages and cultures” at SFnovelists
Articles on Language and Culture:
Two great articles, courtesy of automathic:
-Juliana Qian writes about being of Chinese descent in Australia. A lot of it is either uncomfortably familiar experience and/or strikes home quite accurately:
Our cultures are exotic, fashionable, fascinating and valuable when contained within or filtered through a white Western lens – then our cultures are glittering mines. But drawing from your own background is backward and predictable if you’re a person of colour. Sometimes white people try to sell me back my culture and I have to buy it. My China is as much the BBC version as it is the PRC one. There are things I want to eat but cannot cook.
-Rahel Aima on vernacular English:
Embedded within non-western English lies a parallel tension. The vernacular promises all the seductive freshness of exoticised difference, as well as the inherited anger of the Postcolonial Clever—the comfortably removed expat with a knowing gaze. There’s a certain expectation of kitsch, discernible authenticity and legitimacy, or at the very least, something to appropriate, please yaar? Or—something to awkwardly skirt out of respect to cultural relativism and because we are ostensibly beyond the myth of native English. Except then there’s also the orientalised yet unacknowledged elephant in the room: that the diasporic writer just might be the new bedfellow of cultural imperialism.
Bonus: two proverbs!
“Bụng làm, dạ chịu”: “the stomach makes, the heart/mind bears”. Insofar as I can tell, you reap what you sow (or maybe it should be you are what you eat”?. Bonus more usual proverb: “Gieo gió, gặp bão”: “sow the wind, meet the storm”.
In other news, I have learnt more vocabulary by translating a fairy tale (Mỵ Nương and Trương Chi). I’m pretty sure mandarin ranks of Ancient Việt Nam are of no practical use, but “hát” (to sing) could conceivably come in handy. Still torn over words like “cung” (palace, temple), ngôi (throne), and “nhan sắc tuyệt trần” (exceptional, divine beauty), but who knows, I might need them some day…
“Immersion”, like many stories, grew out of conversations–specifically with Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and several other Asian bloggers/writers.
I wanted to write a story about cultural domination; about how the cultural norms from the dominant culture also infect the non-dominant ones; about how globalisation and its products don’t necessarily make the world smaller and communications between cultures easier, but tend to foster a harmful atmosphere in which one culture or subset of cultures (US/Europe, to be specific) takes over the existing ones and remakes everything in its image. That the takeover is subtle, not done by guns but rather through commerce and the diffusion of media, doesn’t make it less visible or excusable: not all wars are waged with weapons and violence; and the more subtle and insidious version of cultural colonisation that’s currently going on in the world is a phenomenon with obvious and damaging impact (and also includes Western tourism in developing countries, which is often intensely problematic and fraught with coloniser attitudes).
The story is also very obviously based on our trip in Vietnam and my rants at the guidebooks which distill a culture in an outsider, monolithic (and many times wildly inaccurate) version: the immersers from Galactic to Rong are guidebooks V2.0. I also imagined their counterpart from Rong to Galactic, something that would make it clear that unbalanced cultural exchanges could lead to severe cultural distortion, as well as rejection of one’s home culture–a phenomenon that’s not always harmful, but is taken to its extreme in Agnes. I also tried to tackle how damaging the imposition of languages and standards of beauty could become, though through lack of space I had to go for a fairly caricatural version of it.
(mild spoilers, plus somewhat long rambles)
Continue reading →
“Tiền nào của nấy”: “you get what you pay for” (lit. “such money, such merchandise”). With thanks to Grandma for that one 🙂
Two plus sides: I’m slowly starting to make myself understood by other people; and as a related issue, I’m also reading much faster (obviously, since Mom doesn’t scream every two words that I got the pronunciation wrong). Not really perfect yet, but he, I’ll take what I can get.
Funny stuff: I used to have an awful lot of trouble with the descending accent (the one in “nào”) because I confused it with the neutral; now I *still* have a lot of trouble with it, but I confuse it with the *other* descending accent (the one in “mẹ”, which has a longer duration and goes to a lower pitch). Can we take that as a sign that I know how to descend tones on a word? (rather than a sign of regression 😉 ).
Was trying to tranlate Tấm and Cam as a language learning exercise, but I think I’ll turn to Trương Chi and Mỵ Nương–they’re both fairytales I know very well, but Trương Chi is like, ten times shorter? I think I need an easy one before tackling the longest fairytale in the book…
Is there a special name for the pane of glass on the front of an airplane (the one in the cockpit, where you can see where the plane is going), or am I just looking for something that doesn’t exist?
(it’s not quite for a plane, it’s for a spaceship, but for the life of me I can’t figure out the word)
Thanks in advance!