Tag Archives: cultural awareness

Not a narcissistic outsider

I have an unusual habit. At work, whenever I finish using the computer, I would move the mouse from the left, to the right hand side. Most of the time I would remember this left-to-right move. I’m conscious about moving the mouse to the right because I’m aware that most users in the office are right handed.

Sometimes some colleagues would joke about the mouse being in the wrong place. “Janet was sitting there earlier.” We would joke about life being miserable because I forgot to move the mouse to the right, or the horror when they found two mice were placed next to each other, and they grabbed the wrong mouse for their computer. I have wonderful, supportive colleagues and we often joke about trivial matters like this. Continue reading

Born as an outsider

Image by Viewminder via Flickr

Image by Viewminder via Flickr

I was born an outsider.

I’m left-handed. It was a curse. In the 70s and the 80s, teachers never liked a left-hander, and left-handedness was a defect that any honourable teacher had to correct.

As a young child, I was scorned for writing with my left hand. Teachers cast me the scary look. A cane would rain down on me if I switched to use my left hand. My classmates were spies. They would receive rewards from the teachers if they reported to the teachers whenever they saw me writing with my left hand. Continue reading

An age with relative freedom

We played some music by the band Queen yesterday. When listening to the song, I Want to Break Free, my husband commented that many radio and TV stations in the USA banned this song since its release in 1984. I was surprised. I have always considered the USA a relatively ‘free’ country, much freer than many Asian countries, but why would it be so prudish as to ban a music video of four men dressed in women’s clothes? Or, could it be because some people in power didn’t like skinny ballerinas performing a modern dance in skin-tight leotards?

What does it feel like being shackled? It is the sense of total isolation, in the deafening and incoherent cacophony. Continue reading

Oriental and western views on postnatal confinement

Private Eye: Woman has baby

Private Eye on the royal birth: Woman has baby. Image by Duncan via Flickr

When I saw the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) beaming radiantly outside the hospital with her baby boy, George, just 27 hours after her birth, I felt slightly uncomfortable.

Strangely, I heard my mum’s voice ringing in my head: “Terrible! Why is she walking about? She should be lying in bed. Poor girl — oh no, she had washed her hair? Look! It’s so windy. The wind is so bad for her. What? She’s wearing high platform shoes? Not wearing socks? Good grief!”

What’s the one-month postnatal confinement?

Traditionally, Chinese women must observe a strict one-month postnatal confinement. Even now, a lot of modern and highly educated women still follow the tradition. Though there are regional varieties with the rituals and taboos about the confinement, the common taboos are as follows: Continue reading

Trivia news and perspectives

I read my emails after work yesterday. The Times had sent me a news update at lunch time. This was the message:

“Good afternoon,

Here are the top stories on thetimes.co.uk this lunchtime:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old student suspected of planting a bomb at the Boston Marathon, is said to have begun responding to investigators via handwritten notes despite remaining in a “serious condition” having survived a suicide attempt http://thetim.es/boston-questions

Jeremy Hunt has defended his plan to make aspiring nurses spend up to a year working as hands-on carers after it was criticised as “stupid” and unworkable by nursing chiefshttp://thetim.es/nursing-plan

Liverpool have said that they will not sell Luis Suárez despite confirming they have fined the controversial footballer and put him on a behavioural programme after he bit a Chelsea defender during their game yesterday http://thetim.es/hungry-dippo

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, has admitted privacy concerns over the search giant’s Google Glasses and called for a “new social etiquette” to govern their use http://thetim.es/i-eye

The prospect of Formula One cutting its ties with Bahrain appears increasingly unlikely after Bernie Ecclestone indicated that a new five-year contract could be awarded to organisers of the country’s controversial grand prix http://thetim.es/bahrain-F1

And finally, a French sailor had a lucky escape after he was attacked by a crocodile while swimming off the north coast of Australia, leaving him with a “few holes on the head” and a remarkable tale of survival http://thetim.es/lucky-bite

Thanks for reading,…”

After skimming the text, I asked myself, has it improved my understanding of the world, or my empathy, at all? Do I, does everyone, still need to be fed current trivia of the 19 year-old loser? Continue reading

What’s in the news?

I tried to find out some information about the major earthquake in Sichuan, China, however, it’s almost hidden in the newspapers as the earthquake is not major news in the UK, comparing to Boston bombing. Today, I bought the Sunday Times, and expected the earthquake news to be easily found. It isn’t. From the front page to page 5, the news is dominated by Boston bombing, in great details. The China earthquake news is on the bottom right of pg 33 (the main section has only 34 pages of news).

Continue reading

Tweetable in Oxford Dictionaries

Learning English is hard. Some new words recognised by Oxford Dictionaries make me feel a bit dizzy. Below is a list of some of the new words that have been added to Oxford Dictionaries as part of their February 2013 update. Read the original post here.

A selection of new words from the February 2013 quarterly update, by Oxford Dictionaries.

Image from OxfordWords Blog

Image from Oxford Words Blog

appletini, Baggy Green, biosimilar, blootered, braggadocious, burrata,
cane corso, cruft, dumbphone, feature-complete, flexitarian, FOSS, friend zone,
hump day, metabolic syndrome, omnium, range anxiety, schlumpy, sillage, social sharing, SSD,
touchless, tray bake, tweetable, upcharge, voluntourism

Why is Tray Bake a new term? Tweeter is so powerful that now certain things are ‘tweetable’. I haven’t got a Tweeter account, and does it mean that I’m out? It’s also interesting to learn about a new form of anxiety — range anxiety:

[mass noun] informal

  • worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached:range anxiety is often cited as the most important reason why many are reluctant to buy electric cars

From the list, I can tell you that I’ve got a dumbphone, and my neighbour is a flexitarian.

Wy not try making a few sentences with these words? Please share your creativity with us in the comments.

It’s a hump day. Let’s have some tray cake, burrata and appletini. Make sure you’re not too schlumpy.

The Polish delight

Yesterday I wrote about Polish being the second most spoken language in England and Wales, according to the 2011 census.

I sensed the rise of the Polish language just over 2 years ago. In our local library, the self-service machine offered 4 language options, namely, English, Chinese, Russian and Polish.

Today I went to Winchester library to check if the language options have changed. No. It’s the same language options. This picture shows what I saw in the Polish version about account, borrowing and renewal and making payment.

Polish at your fingertips.

Polish at your fingertips.

There are 2 issues here. First, why offering the Russian option? How many Russian speakers have you ever met in Hampshire, or in England? Without any statistic, I’m sure the Russian population in Hampshire is minimal.

Second, why offering the Polish language option? Have you met any Polish who can’t speak or write English well?

Based on my encounters with people from different ethnic groups, the majority of the people who can’t (or can’t be bothered to, or who are culturally discouraged to) learn English are from South China, especially women. Sadly, a lot of people (especially women) whose dominant language is in Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali or Gujarati (which I called the Big 4) can’t function in English in this country. If the library is to offer any practical support to the needy groups, I feel that the languages needed would be the Big 4.

I think it’s time I (and you) learnt some Polish

This chart I created shows you the main spoken languages in England and Wales.

English (and Welsh), Polish and Punjabi

English (and Welsh), Polish and Punjabi

According to the 2011 census, English (and Welsh) — 92% — is still the dominant language in England and Wales, followed by Polish (1%).

The top 10 reported languages were English, followed by Polish, Panjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese, which were the 27th and 40th most commonly-used languages) and Portuguese. According to the census, Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese) ranked number 9.

See the data from the Office for National Statistics,

Language distribution in England and Wales, 2011 (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Language distribution in England and Wales, 2011 (Source: Office for National Statistics)

As a linguist, I’m curious of this data regarding the Chinese language. What does Chinese (excluding Mandarin and Cantonese) really cover? Shanghainese, Min and Taiwanese, Hakka, Fuzhou……? How were various Chinese languages (regional languages or dialects) defined? Most modern Chinese speak Mandarin, and their functional language will be Mandarin (though they may are born speaking regional language/dialect.) Which option would the Chinese people have chosen? Mandarin or their regional languages/dialects? I reason that the percentage of the population who speaks Mandarin would be higher, if you included those who also speak their regional language/dialects.

To learn Polish, please pop over to the BBC for some quick tips. Good luck!

Click the image below to learn Polish.

Surviving Polish

Polish or dummies

Friend: the word to honour 2012

In response to my previous post, Chinese Character of the Year 2012 Revealed: From ‘Tiny’ to ‘Lust’, my friend Vera Poh from To Dad With Love told the world with a warm heart that she would choose the Chinese character 友 (pronounced as yǒu; meaning ‘friend’) to be her character of the year 2012.

Here is the character ‘friend’ in Chinese, as chosen by Vera.

Poh Character of the Year 2012If you have been on WordPress for a while, you might also share Vera’s reflections on this Chinese character. Aren’t we not grateful that we’ve found some genuine friends through blogging, especially on WordPress? The most invaluable experience on WordPress is that many friendships have transcended nation, age and culture. Friendships have flourished and minds are nurtured. Our life has thus been wonderfully enriched.