Thursday, 6 September 2012
China Commands The English Language - Er .... Maybe Not
English is a difficult language to muster at the best of times. Pronounciation, grammar and vocabulary are challenging as is the difference between written English and spoken English. What probably confounds every foreigner are the nuances around the British humour which is widely found even in the most unlikely corners. Sarcasm, understatement, sublety, disgusting, 'ooh er Missus', 'nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more', political and insulting asides and sharp jokes in times of adversity must take some mastering.
It is no surprise to say that the most amusing English is written by the Chinese. It is technically the best (far better than I write or speak) but the nuances go over their heads, hence making it funny. I know they were technically correct calling the hotel in Shandong where I stayed, the Traffic Mansion. It was situated on a busy intersection. The copper plaque from the bathroom, describing the state of the water (above) is now in my bathroom. It makes me smile each morning.
'Will you check our business brochure?' asked one of the civil servants based in the town municipal office who was responsible for international relations. 'We want to send this to many businessmen and women in Europe.'
I had to tell him that it might be a good idea to change the line: 'we wish to have intercourse with you', however technically correct it may have been. He didn't seem to mind.
A communist apparatchik from Poland was little better with his English, when he lost his temper.
'The trouble with you English is that you think you know f**k everything,' he said, 'when, in fact you know f**k nothing.'
Again I had to tell him that, though it may have been technically correct, there were better ways of saying it.
He did mind and started shouting more.