Chinglish: teaching culture & imperfect translations

Last night I went to see “Chinglish” on Broadway.  It was great – funny and smart.  It made me think a lot about culture and language and reminded me a lot of the culture session we do in the Teaching Business Englishcourse.  The play was all about guanxi  – the importance of creating relationships when doing business, as well as the differences in translations and intended meaning. 

It’s fascinating how much cultures vary in the way that business is done.  Since English is used as a lingua franca for most international business these days, it makes me realize how important teaching culture is when teaching English.  Not only American culture – but cultures from all areas of the world the students will encounter. 

It also made me think about how difficult learning a language is.  When languages differ so radically in pronunciation, writing, syntax and grammatical rules, it helps me understand the challenge that learning a language presents.  About 20 years ago I spent three months in China pointing at Chinese characters in my phrase book – too scared to open my mouth and say something that would no doubt be different from my intention.  Learning (and teaching) a language is a fascinating process!

If you’re in New York, I highly recommend seeing ‘Chinglish’.


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