||[Oct. 8th, 2006|04:24 am]
the Gong Family
i found this post about hong kong from a friend's friends list. here is an excerpt which sounds .. humorous, for some reason.|
I was fully expecting to be amazed by the city, but to my surprise the first thing to jump out at me wasn't the crazy density or great wealth, but rather the fact that every street sign had come down with character cancer. Four months in Beijing had only given me the most rudimentary knowledge of Chinese, but there was still a bedrock class of characters ('street', 'hotel', 'restaurant', 'tobacco shop') that I had come to regard as old friends, and it was somewhat traumatic to see them gone, replaced by mysterious and intimidating usurpers bristling with ink. Like Taiwan and Singapore, Hong Kong uses the traditional† Chinese writing system, which looks like it was designed by someone who got paid by the stroke:
I may be exaggerating a touch in the last example, but the others are real. And just to really mess with the heads of foreign learners, the change in orthography comes with a brand-new spoken language at no extra charge. Whatever foothold you may have scratched in the sheer rock wall of Mandarin becomes useless in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, dropping you back into the abyss of complete illiteracy and incomprehension so familiar from your first weeks in China. Simple everyday situations you may have learned to cope with on the mainland ("how much?", "which way?", "dumplings?", "massage?") once again become an insurmountable linguistic Everest. Hence the immense feeling of relief when you discover that everyone here secretly speaks English.