Cultural Exhange Program
by BeijingIrish (2005-11-09 01:07:26)
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My Chinese colleagues appreciate opportunities both to strengthen their ability in spoken English and to learn about US popular culture. Several months ago, I organized informal English classes for our local staff in Beijing, and, this morning on the eve of Chinese New Year, we had the final class before our people took off for the week-long holiday. I thought the board might be amused by the results of today’s class

As always, we began with the Yao Ming Daily Status Report prepared and delivered by Miss Wei. Then, we got down to business.

The theme of this week’s classes was Notre Dame football: why it is important; why it is important to be an Irish fan in this office, especially when it comes to promotions and raises; Tyrone Willingham’s significance as an oracle of wisdom and enlightenment; how USC came to join Chiang Kai Shek and the Gang of Four as enemies of the people; etc. They are making excellent progress, particularly now that they have been assured that they can be fans of the Houston Rockets and Notre Dame simultaneously.

Today’s subject was college mascots. We began with Notre Dame, and, as you can imagine, it was not a straightforward task. How to render Fighting Irish into a meaningful concept? After a rather long discussion of ND—its origins, its culture, its traditions—the class was prepared to select He De Tai Duo De Nian Qing Ren (Young Men Who Drink Too Much). After further discussion, we settled on Kong Ji Ying Di Guo Zhu Yi Ru Qin De Yong Gan Zhan Shi (Valiant Fighters Against British Imperialist Aggression).

Then, the discussion moved to the 2003 schedule. Some of the mascots of our opponents were pretty easy: Naval Cadets (Hai Jun Jun Xiao Xue Yuan); Orange People (this was mystifying to some); Redundant Engineers (Duo Yu Mei Yong De Guan Chong Shi); Dirty Indigenous People Who Live in the Swamp (we toyed with Discount Shoppers for a few minutes); and, Cute Little Red Birds (Xiao Hong Niao). The girls in the class liked this one. In any case, they were reluctant to give Stanford anything but a nice name since Stanford is a preferred venue for MBA study.

I had to approach the topic with a certain delicacy, but USC was not difficult in the end. They are the Condoms (Bi Yun Tao), of course, and the class pointed out the fact that USC advertising a product in this way only serves to emphasize the unfortunate materialism that is so much a part of American culture and life. USC Hatred will be the subject of another sequence of classes to be organized when they return from vacation. My objective is to have USC Hatred elevated to a place in contemporary Chinese political dialogue along with Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiao Ping Theory, and the Three Represents.

We simply did not have enough time for Michigan State. To come up with an adequate name, I would have had to go into the history of the Peloponnese. So we cut it short and chose Xi Ai Ta Men De Mian Yang De Gu Xi La Ren (Ancient Greeks Who Loved Their Sheep).

WSU, Michigan, and Pitt posed real problems. None of these animals are indigenous to China. How does one explain a wolverine to someone who’s never seen (or smelled) one? We found it convenient to select the same name for all three: Bu Neng Chi De Mei Yong De Dong Wu (Useless Animals Which Cannot be Eaten). Some might observe that this doesn’t sound so bad, but they ignore the contempt Chinese have for any creature that cannot be consumed.

The same could be said for birds of prey, e.g., eagles, but my students are sensitive to the fact that this is America’s national symbol. At the same time, the concept of endangered species is unknown in China. The Chinese think any source of food should be endangered. So, we were stumped by BC for awhile. Finally, I mentioned that the school is run by a sect of dangerous fanatics, and we had it! Falun Gong. My students were horrified when I said we have two schools run by dangerous fanatics on the 2003 schedule. But when I described the Mormon experience with polygamy, they didn’t think that sounds so dangerous. Concubines are OK. They came around when I discussed proselytizing, a painful reminder of China’s experience with missionaries. So, we ended up with Falun Gong I (BC) and Falun Gong II (BYU).

I don’t think we missed any. The class did a good job, but we have challenges in the years ahead. Tar Heel. I don’t even know what that is. I suppose they will end up as the University of North Carolina Filthy Feet. But my people are ready. They will be fanatics. God help any Michigan graduates who try to interview here.


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