Language politics

Nothing interests me more than language, except you (Tina).

I always knew this in the back of my mind, but it was recently brought to light by the Taiwanese American English teacher that came here with me to Jingjiang, China.

During 1950s, China had a “cultural revolution” where they changed the writing of the language nationwide. Most Chinese people here don’t even know that. In essence, they’ve undermined their own language by superficial simplification. If you didn’t know, “pinyin” is the romanization of Chinese words, analogous to “romaji” of Japanese. Don’t the Chinese people wonder how romanization found its way into learning their language? Chinese writing has been around since possibly the 5th millenium BC. “But it’s so much more difficult to learn!” Then how have people done it for that long? Why did China do it? Was it just to differentiate themselves politically from countries like Taiwan? I guess we’ll never know because such a large portion of its citizens don’t even realize it happened…but I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy to know that it was seemingly made up to appease Western influences.

So the Chinese just made up a bunch of characters without reason (in a different way that Koreans reinvented their writing system phonetically with scholars). So by revolutionizing and attempting to pump up nationalism, they destroyed their own language. In fact, I recently learned that dialectic patterns thought to be regional between Taiwan and China are actually the result of sounds that were lost when transcribed to pinyin (Romanization) then back to Chinese characters. It’s like somebody took a paragraph in one language, put it into Google Translate, then back into the original language. Does that turn out well?

Doesn’t this make countries like Taiwan collectively the true China?



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