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Several days ago, I saw the movie Les Miserables, wherein the major character's name is Jean Valjean.  I thought I watched Les Miserables movies and cartons in mandarin version several times as a child – so why his name doesn’t ring a bell.  Suddenly, I realized the character I saw in mandarin version sounds like “Rava Rean” - seems like different name.

I suddenly felt unfair for me as a foreigner. Even though I have read and watched about a lot of master pieces in mandarin, when I talk about people’s name or locations in Chinese version with my English speaking classmates and my husband or other people from other countries, they will be totally lost, not understanding what I am talking about.   Besides the language boundary, there is also the cultural differences. As one time I talked about “xi qu ke ke (希区苛客,Alfred Hitchcock)”, even I said he is the master director of detective/scary movies, my husband still didn’t get it who I talked about, he asked me to name his movie names, I couldn’t either.  Because the movie name translations are totally different.  I went to the details about the movies, my husband got more confused.  I suddenly feel I am in the “lost translation.” I have to go home and use google translation to continue the conversation. 

I feel that my education in China except Mathematics are almost wasted in the US. I couldn’t use my cultural knowledge to have conversations or play any knowledge games with Americans.  Plus my elementary school level of English and grammar, I often feel fooling, not cultural at all, regardless I am passionate about and spent decades of my life learning about music, opera, impressionism painting and modern art.

Why in China does everything need to be translated and learned in Chinese, especially foreign names? How come names cannot be identical to the names in the original language, so people who go abroad have some common “culture” to share and can talk.  In the movie, leave the original name underneath of the Chinese translation.  On the text books or novels, put the original “Real” names beside the translations.  Why not teach Mandarin and English together, so when we come to the original countries, we can realize and identify what they are talking about and join the conversation with a common knowledge we learn.

Wake up people, as the world becomes more globalized, education needs to be globalized too.  Otherwise, even though we’ve learned a lot in Chinese, we still look like idiots without any culture basis.   For the foreign people living in the US, too often we end up hanging out only with the people who came from the same country, have common “culture” to talk about things happened before we left the countries. It is Les Miserables!!


1/5/2013 03:14:01 am

(In Japanese accent) "lip my stocking"

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Carol & Bill Hegranes
1/5/2013 12:32:38 pm

Pei, you have opened our eyes to how you see things in a very insightful way. We have a similar perspective when we visit our home in Mexico, and try to learn their language and culture. Thank you for sharing with us. Hope to see you and Jon soon.
Love, carol & Dad

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1/5/2013 10:28:49 pm

Carol,

Thanks for the comments, love your further thoughts in Mexico. Great you like and read my blogs, I will write more often this year. We can share some thoughts.

Hope to see you soon.

Love, Pei

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