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Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby tsukinodeynatsu » 09 Jul 2011, 00:59

I've spent a good chunk of the last six months editing a thesis together with its author who is, to be honest, absolutely awesome. But he FREAKED OUT the first couple of times I changed things to make them clearer. Eventually we came to an understanding that 'Chinese is written how (colloquial) English is spoken, and English is written how (colloquial) Chinese is spoken' and it became a topic of interest.

One of these differences, as finjay pointed out, is perception. In English, if we don't understand a piece of writing, we assume the writer is an idiot who can barely hold a pen. In Taiwan, they assume that they are stupid for being unable to understand it, and the writer must be very clever.

Also, on the face thing mentioned in Finjay's post: there's a story about two brothers named BoYi and ShuQi in the Great Histories (Shiji) by Sima Qian. Effectively, these two brothers were supposed to become kings, but decided that they didn't want to and scarpered. In their travels they came across a man who's father had just died and, during the funeral procession, he was recruiting for the revolution that his father started. BoYi and ShuQi (supposedly not caring that the people this guy wants to massacre are their family) became incensed and scolded him for talking about revolution over his father's grave, saying that he had terrible morals and if he ever led the country they would refuse to eat a single grain of rice from his table. Eventually, this unfilial man's revolution succeeds and he becomes king, leading BoYi and ShuQi to take to the mountains in disgust - away from his rule and anything he could provide. There, they starved to death, thus realising their wish of not eating anything provided by him or his regime.

Somebody asked Confucius if he thought these two men died bitter. Confucius replied: Why should they be bitter? They said they didn't want to eat, and so they starved to death; what is there to be bitter about?

This line was parroted for around a thousand years, up until Sima Qian (in his telling of the tale) asked 'Really? Why shouldn't they have been bitter?'

If you read the Analects a LOT of what Confucius says either falls under common sense or sarcasm, but the sarasm is taken literally and parroted for centuries - because you could never be great enough to question the Great Teacher @.@; And people who starve to death are never bitter = =" Nuts.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby ādikarmika » 09 Jul 2011, 05:08

lostinasia wrote:Oh, and has someone who has also spent a bit of time in North American academia, and far too much time with cultural studies: obfuscating banal or incoherent or non-existent ideas with impenetrable jargon is not unique to East Asia. The academic tradition of proving how brilliant you are by being incomprehensible is alive and well in many humanities departments around the world.

I think this is a bit of a myth. According to academics I've spoken to, those who actually examine PhD theses don't like it when they can't follow what you're saying, and will mark you down for it.


BTW, I proofread a paper last week. The English was pretty good - it just needed a native speaker to give it a bit of polish - but as I read through it, I discovered that the author didn't understand how to use the t statistic, and the whole paper was flawed.
Mind you, the study itself wasn't flawed (well, not fatally anyway), and all the author had to do was analyse his data differently. This may have enabled him to actually support his claims, and it certainly would have have reduced the number of tables, thus making the whole thing easier to understand.
But no, it had already been accepted for publication, and "my reviewers will feel upset if I make changes on my paper they did not ask me to change."

I heard somewhere that the average academic article gets read by, like, 1.4 persons. Perhaps it's a good thing.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby Chris » 09 Jul 2011, 05:38

finley wrote:What makes that really funny is the implicit subtext: she knows more about English writing than you do (yet, she's still asking you to fix it ...).

That's a staggeringly common assumption among Taiwanese people: that educated native speakers of English are not very competent in their own language, and the Taiwanese know better because they studied English in school for years.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby xtrain » 09 Jul 2011, 06:38

Chris wrote:
finley wrote:What makes that really funny is the implicit subtext: she knows more about English writing than you do (yet, she's still asking you to fix it ...).

That's a staggeringly common assumption among Taiwanese people: that educated native speakers of English are not very competent in their own language, and the Taiwanese know better because they studied English in school for years.


Was just relating a story about this over lunch ... absolute gold!

The only answer I've ever received that was even remotely plausible is that Chinese teachers can teach the fine points of English grammar to Chinese students (most often in Chinese), while many [not all] English native speakers have difficulty explaining these points, relying on the answer "That's just the way we say/write it." Of course, this came from someone who claimed that she was a superior English teacher because she was a native Mandarin speaker who could explain fine points of grammar in Chinese--apparently, the fact that she butchered English grammar every time she opened her mouth was not nearly as important?!? :loco:
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby housecat » 09 Jul 2011, 07:54

finley wrote:Wasn't there a scene in Friends where Joey uses a thesaurus to rewrite his CV to make himself seem "more intelligent"?


Actually, it was a letter recommending Monica and Chandler as adoptive parents. He'd signed it "Baby Kangaroo" Tribbiani. (I watched way too much of that show. I know.)

Anyway, I know a LOT of native speakers who can't tell you the first thing about grammar. And a many of them are English teachers I've met here. If you pulled aside 100 people from my home town and asked them why we "X" the way we "X", at least 96 of them would say, "Because that's just the way we "X."

However, having said that, if I'm paying someone else to clean up my writing, I'm not going to argue with them about the changes they make. That drives me nutts. If I thought I knew how to write well, I wouldn't pay someone else to check my work. If I knew I needed someone to review my work, I'd keep my mouth shut.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby maoman » 09 Jul 2011, 08:25

tsukinodeynatsu wrote:Eventually we came to an understanding that 'Chinese is written how (colloquial) English is spoken, and English is written how (colloquial) Chinese is spoken' and it became a topic of interest.

I'm curious. Could you give me an example of what you mean?
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 09 Jul 2011, 09:04

I wonder why there is such arrogance amongst a lot of Taiwanese about the abilities of (educated) native speakers to speak or write English. I have met few Taiwanese who can speak or write English even remotely as well as the average Dane, Swede or Dutchman, and yet the average Dane, Swede or Dutchman is far more humble about his English abilities in comparison to native speakers.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby antarcticbeech » 09 Jul 2011, 12:18

GuyInTaiwan wrote:I wonder why there is such arrogance amongst a lot of Taiwanese about the abilities of (educated) native speakers to speak or write English. I have met few Taiwanese who can speak or write English even remotely as well as the average Dane, Swede or Dutchman, and yet the average Dane, Swede or Dutchman is far more humble about his English abilities in comparison to native speakers.


Yes that really shits me. Each time I meet a Finn or Norwegian the conversation runs along almost flawlessly. I had no problem speaking English in Singapore, either. But Taiwan is a crapshoot. A few weeks ago I went to the Main Station to get a train timetable. I went to the ticketing info desk and said, 'Can I have a train timetable?' The girl at the desk said, 'Ok, wait a minute' and then started typing into her computer. Five minutes later I was still waiting and she was still typing. Then she asked, 'What time do you want to leave?' I replied that I didn't want to leave, I just wanted a timetable. More typing. Eventually, another staff member came to her rescue and asked me what I wanted. So I told him and he promptly asked me what time I wanted to leave. So I got out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote 'timetable' and showed him. He reached directly in front of me and pulled one booklet from a rack on my side of the desk and gave it to me. It was a timetable.

And that, my friends, is the English ability at the info desk in the capital city's main train station.

Last night, in the classroom, I met a guy who's been studying English for 15 years yet didn't know the word 'trumpet', even though he's been playing a trumpet and carrying it around for the last 5 years. This is normal: students don't know their own majors or their own hobbies or even the fact that their really very cute 'small cat' is actually a kitten. There is something supremely ineffective about the way Taiwanese learn English that, if nothing else, at least adds a little to the oriental mystique. I've no idea how they maintain this level of uselessness, or why, but it is impressive and all I can say is: Confucius, I salute you. :salute:

GiT: Every time I come across this arrogance I pull out* this map of English proficiency:

Image
http://www.ef-australia.com.au/sitecore/__/~/media/efcom/epi/pdf/EF-EPI-2011.pdf

And point out that the Japanese outscore Taiwan (and they all know how bad the Japanese are ). Then I point out that (the dark skinned :eek: ) Malaysians do quite well. And the Finns - despite not really testing or studying very hard - do very well indeed. Then I (very slowly, otherwise they may not understand) read them this:

Taiwan and Hong Kong also have scores that are lower than many would expect. Both show that economic development and spending on education alone are not equivalent to high levels of English proficiency.

. . .

[More emphasis needs to be placed on] both communication skills and strategies to negotiate meaning when communication breaks down. To gain maximum benefit from time spent studying English, both students and teachers should place the priority on communication, not grammatical correctness. Many adults, having studied in a more traditional English as a Foreign Language context, need extra practice listening and speaking.


All of this is usually enough food for thought, although I like to also say that I've never had a Taiwanese student that can write well in English. They're all stuck on the 'think in Chinese, create a Chinese sentence and translate' road to error.

*I usually carry a netbook to class.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby finley » 09 Jul 2011, 13:11

[More emphasis needs to be placed on] both communication skills and strategies to negotiate meaning when communication breaks down. To gain maximum benefit from time spent studying English, both students and teachers should place the priority on communication, not grammatical correctness.


Getting all philosophical for a moment, I wonder if it really does have something to do with this:

There is something supremely ineffective about the way Taiwanese learn English that, if nothing else, at least adds a little to the oriental mystique. I've no idea how they maintain this level of uselessness, or why, but it is impressive and all I can say is: Confucius, I salute you.


The story that tsukinodeynatsu relates makes no sense at all to a western audience. It's just dumb. If you were genuinely in the two brothers' position, well, you'd find a plan B, wouldn't you: you'd leave for the next-door kingdom. Or you'd eat what the usurper didn't provide (i.e., everything not growing on state-operated farms). "Bitter" doesn't come into the equation because their suffering was self-inflicted.

Now, I have heard that eastern philosophers often used a technique similar to irony or reductio ad absurdum to make a point, and possibly (as tsukinodeynatsu points out) that story is probably an example of that. But it still doesn't make a lot of sense. Is it simply that Chinese culture is just far more alien than we've ever realised, with values and goals so different to our own that we're jumping to all the wrong conclusions? Could it be, for example, that the aim of showing your published paper to a foreigner is not to have your language corrected, but simply to show off: "look, I wrote an academic paper in your barbarian language!". And the aim of sending your kid to English school is not so that he can learn English but so that you can say to your neighbours "well, my kid studies English now. It's very important to give your kid an international education, wouldn't you agree?".

What I mean is, maybe the important threads of communication in Chinese culture are not the ones that are important in Western culture, regardless of the language you're using to do it. Stephen King spells it out very well in his book On Writing: writing is telepathy. Good writing (or speaking) transplants an idea from one mind to another. Yet it seems that in Chinese culture, this is not the underlying aim. If that were the case, it's actually an advantage to speak awful english, because you can baffle your listener while still (apparently) appearing clever and bilingual.

I wonder why there is such arrogance amongst a lot of Taiwanese about the abilities of (educated) native speakers to speak or write English. I have met few Taiwanese who can speak or write English even remotely as well as the average Dane, Swede or Dutchman...


Indeed. I am insanely jealous of those guys and I'd love to know how they do it with such apparent ease. And I would also be very interested to hear a speaker of Chinglish explain why they are so damn confident in their abilities.
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Re: Chinese Logic? Anyone? Anyone? (changing a student's grade)

Postby housecat » 09 Jul 2011, 13:20

finley wrote:Could it be, for example, that the aim of showing your published paper to a foreigner is not to have your language corrected, but simply to show off: "look, I wrote an academic paper in your barbarian language!"


Perhaps--if they weren't PAYING you to revise it.
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