China First Hand

25 February 2006

English in China

Filed under: Language,Personal — china1sthand @ 12:28 pm


The weekend starts here.  When I have spare time I like to surround myself in the language I can actually understand!!


One of my English language saviours was the English-language TV station in China, called CCTV9.  (“Broadcast 24 hours a day, throughout China and across the world”!)  I loved the stuff they put on there.  I could watch it practically all day.  The programmes included news, discussion programmes (Dialogue), current affairs (Around China / China Today), documentaries, arts and entertainment (Culture Express & Center Stage on the weekends), various travel programmes, and language learning (Learning Chinese).  It’s non-stop information on China!  I’m sure I’ve used a lot of this information in my blog.


When I flick through other Chinese channels, they are basically light entertainment, including tabloid-style news and documentaries, dramas and game shows, and lots of people singing!  CCTV9 broadcasts quite a different type of programme.  Some of the coverage impressed me a lot.  Perhaps it is to encourage positive foreign opinion?  Well, it worked.  I particularly like the critical analysis that is regularly broadcast live on the show Dialogue.  This often covered controversial topics and presented them with fair contributions from the various perspectives.  Good work.


I must add that, as with everything in China, you still see bias on CCTV9.  One programme was exploring the request that China had made for the British museum to return their stolen Chinese artefacts.  This is an interesting topic because there is a strong argument that these were unlawfully taken from China, and therefore should be returned.  No Chinese on this programme even acknowledged an alternative view – even on the vox pox of the general public, they only broadcast people nonchalantly repeating the same opinion!  To be a valued broadcaster, it is important to compare different arguments as only then can you identify the strongest.  Now I can’t know how much I am influenced by the fact a person is from my own nationality, but I think the guy interviewed from the British Museum did an excellent job.  Even with arguments piled against him, he responded to the emotive interviewer with rationale, diplomacy and respect.  It is a fact that these artefacts would not have survived the Cultural Revolution.  Arguments that China will look after them better than the British museum are not going to be convincing.  He also explained that the British Museum is a museum of the world and so all countries are represented.  Visitors’ opinions of China will inevitably rise as viewing its contribution to the world.  I think the British Museum is probably where I first encountered amazing Chinese art – and so influenced my interest today.  This is another indicator that China still does not consider itself to be part of the rest of the world.  I’m not going to take sides, but I find that the person giving a rational argument is always the more convincing.


The only problem with CCTV9 is it can get dry and repetitive.  There are rare occasions when you don’t want to think about China – even for me!  At these times I escape into an English-language DVD.  DVDs are everywhere here, and usually have both Chinese and English subtitles available.  Generally, using subtitles is a good way of learning a language.  I decided to put the English subtitles on one DVD when I couldn’t quite hear.  It was absolutely brilliant!  I wasn’t sure if maybe the subtitles were just from a different script?  In scenes between Wallace and Gromit there would be something like “come here darling” and a moment approaching a passionate kiss would subtitle “How dare you!”  Then I noticed that sometimes the subtitles were nearly right, but the odd word only sounded similar to the correct one.  The sentence didn’t make sense – it was like sometimes someone was just looking up words in a dictionary!  The really great thing was that the word in the subtitles was completely obscure.  Often, within the context, it was absolutely hilarious!!  C’mon who’s gonna nab this idea? It’s comedy sketch gold!!!


My other English language saviour?  From beginning to end I watched the complete box set of Friends! J


1 Comment »

  1. […] Now obviously I didn’t understand a word the actors said.  I could still follow the story!  The acting was excellent because the facial expressions told me when someone was plotting, or angry, or satisfied, or genuine.  They were playing demure characters but you could still recognise what they were thinking.  With occasional explanation from my friend, I didn’t feel lost at all.  We should all be able to see this quality drama!  The one in the picture even has English on it!  Why can’t we find Chinese DVDs at our local entertainment store?  Right, everyone down to your local China Town – with enough demand, they’ll make the DVDs with helpful English subtitles! […]

    Pingback by War and Beauty « China First Hand — 20 September 2006 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

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