English the Chinese way
The New Yorker describes China's frenzied efforts "to conquer English to make China stronger" -- that is to say, bone up on the language before the Olympics. It's tempting and always good for a cheap laugh to make fun of Chinese English. After all, who hasn't cracked up reading the manuals that come with made in China goods, with instructions like "put long end in right side up". But seriously, how well would most of us fare if we tried to write instruction manuals in Chinese?
One thing that has always impressed me with the Chinese is their almost unreal ability to attempt anything. They have almost no sense of the impossible. I once met a 70 year old Chinese woman on a train who navigated by pointing to a piece of paper on which her destination was childishly printed in English. At another time I saw a 60 year old man commuting to work through the expedient of running to his destination in a pair of shoes whose soles had parted company with their uppers. Every morning he would whiz by gasping at a dead run, umbrella in one hand and brown paper lunch bag in the other. Every afternoon he would go by in the homeward direction. At least I thought it was homeward. Maybe he was headed for another job. As the days past I noticed changes in his getup. First the shoes got fixed. Then later, the shoes got changed. Then he got a new set of clothes. On and one he ran until one day, I didn't see him at all. I figured he had either dropped dead or improved his income to the point where he could take the train. Maybe he had bought at car.
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