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(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-13 08:55

More than one option for English speakers

Comment on "English War of Words" (Page 27, Nov 3, China Daily)

The level of cultural imperialism present in this author's writing is astounding, and typical of a country that considers it's way of doing things the only option.

This is not a battle between British English and American English, which the author mistakenly calls "International English"; there are many countries whose historical and cultural links to Britain make their English much closer to its original form. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and India all use English not identical to British English, but certainly much more similar than to American English. It is also a fact that students learning English in European countries unsurprisingly learn British English, since it is positioned just 25 miles (about 40 km) off the European continent.

Many of my Chinese friends find a new and exciting dimension to learning English when they start reading the many works of literature that come from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, countries with a much longer and richer literary heritage than our younger cousin across the Atlantic. In teaching advanced English classes, British English is essential in motivating students to perfect their grasp of the language.

It is also patronizing to learners of English to imagine that they cannot cope with learning the relatively small differences between different types of English.

In the end, what the author says about British English is more revealing about her and the American psyche than language usage. Most British, Australians, Canadians and Irish that I meet are fluent in the international variations of English, whereas she, and most Americans, struggle with anything that does not fit into their preconceived notion of how English should be spoken.

Tristan Edmondson

via e-mail

Invoice traders, pickpockets spoil Beijing's image

I was recently on a three-day business trip to Beijing, my first to our capital after the Olympic Games. The transformation of the city greatly impressed me. Its streets were tidier, the state of public transportation had improved visibly, and the residents, in particular, seemed much better behaved.

Standing near the iconic buildings and newly-built skyscrapers, I felt as if I stood at the intersection of our grand past and brilliant future. It is not an exaggeration to describe my trip to Beijing as a melody: My heart was singing.

But this perfect sojourn was marred by two episodes near the end of my trip. When I dragged my luggage toward the Beijing Railway Station, I was pestered by strangers who were mumbling: "Invoice? Do you need invoice?" I was astonished that this kind of economic crime could be carried out in our capital so openly.

When I walked into the lounge of the railway station, I found it was in a mess and packed with passengers. Some passengers played cards around coffee tables, with idlers surrounding them to watch and comment. They occupied the passage to the checkpoint.

I was shocked to find a pickpocket who looked under 16 trying to steal from the backpack of a young student. When she was exposed, she fled with a smile! How brazen she was! The railway station is the one of the important windows of a city. The existence of unscrupulous invoice traders and pickpockets definitely taints the image of our capital city. I suggest the Beijing authorities step up supervision at traffic hubs and do not let pickpockets and invoice traders spoil the image of the city.

Liu Donghai

via e-mail

(China Daily 11/13/2009 page8)