As often happens, I have a pile of interesting pieces that I meant to save, which have just been sitting in my open tabs, so time for a brief roundup.
- Howard French of the New York Times has an article on how Tibetans protest Chinese commodification and colonization of their culture through nonviolent protest, such as lack of participation in PRC-sponsored festivals that are claimed by the Chinese MC to be “[their] very own Khampa Festiva,” and observance of the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent ban on the wearing of endangered animal skins.
- Asahi reports that an announcer on North Korean state television may actually be a Japanese citizen abducted in 1988. I am unclear from the article whether he is announcing in that amusingly over the top militaristic enunciation that DPRK television announcers seem to be trained in.
- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has rescheduled the launch of their Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) for September 13, 10:35 JST, the largest Lunar exploration mission since Apollo. Although it is unfortunately not a manned mission, having three satellites in orbit around the moon bodes well for the future, as far as I’m concerned.
- A recent survey (admittedly sponsored by Taiwanese interests) shows that Taiwanese are “model immigrants” to the USA. This follows on the heals of Taiwan’s entry to the shortlist of countries being considered for 2008 expansion of the USA visa waiver program based on such factors, determined by US government studies, extremely low rates of visa rejection and visa overstaying, which may bolster chances for Taiwanese (ROC) citizens to gain visa-free temporary entry into the US, much as they were recently given visa-free entry rights to Japan in September of 2005.
- In related news, Japan is expected to amend their traffic regulations to accept Taiwanese drivers licenses as valid in Japan, starting on September 19. This will add Taiwan to the short list of countries whose licenses are considered valid in Japan-a list which notably does NOT include the United States.
- The NYT had a very interesting article (unfortunately it’s already entered the subscriber-only sections, so most readers may not have access) on July 31 on the past and future of language in East Timor. The gist of it is that Portuguese, formerly the official language of the country when it was a Portuguese colony but which was later banned by Indonesia after they annexed it in 1975, is now once more the official language of courts, schools and government. Although Tetum, the most common language, and Indonesian, the language of their larger neighbor which was also official in East Timor during the period of Indonesian rule, are both vastly more widely recognized than Portuguese, but Tetum is considered unsuitable for government business and modern education due to a lack of a sophisticated technical vocabulary, and Indonesian likewise considered unsuitable due to the general resentment of decolonization. Portuguese, despite itself being a former colonial language, is apparently fondly regarded by the older generation, and has also left a serious impact on the vocabulary of native languages, and presumably also left behind a large body of legal texts and other literature dating back to the period of Portuguese rule.
I find this an interesting case for comparison with Taiwan, where the Japanese language forced upon the Taiwanese population during their 50-year span of colonization by Japan was also looked back with some degree of sentimentality-along with Japanese rule itself-following the island’s subsequent “colonization” by the Chinese Nationalist government of the Republic of China. Although Japanese has never become an official language of ROC/Taiwan and has also never regained widespread usage, based on this article it does seem to occupy a psychic space similar to that of Portuguese in East Timor.
- Very cool article, also originally from the NYT, but reposted on the Taipei Times website (thankfully avoiding the NYT’s lame archival process) on the prevalence of foreign languages and translation in the New York City public school system. Here’s the meat of the article:
Forty-two percent of the parents of children in the school system, the country’s largest, are not native English speakers, and communicating with them about their children’s education is an immense challenge.
That is especially the case at a time when the system is offering ever-increasing school choices, but is also requiring students to go through a complex admissions process for high school and certain programs.
So, prodded by advocates for immigrants, schools chancellor Joel Klein created a unit three years ago to translate a never-ending flow of school documents, like news releases, report cards and parent surveys, into the eight languages most commonly spoken in New York, after English: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Arabic, Urdu, Korean and Haitian Creole.
It has since expanded to an office with 40 employees and a US$4.5 million budget, and is the largest of its kind in any school system in the US, said Kleber Palma, the unit’s director. In one respect, the office even surpasses the translation division at UN headquarters, which translates most documents into only five official languages other than English: Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.
- ESWN brings us more news on Harry Potter in China. University and Secondary Students Were The Main Forces in Citizen Translations of Harry Potter Book 7.
- The NYT has also posted publisher’s summaries and a few brief excerpts of eight fake Harry Potter sequels published in China. They do have Harry Potter and the Big Funnel (better known as Harry Potter and The Filler of Big), but seem to have missed Harry Potter and Beaker and Burn. Amusingly, just before this was published I was contacted by a prominent American monthly magazine (who shall remain nameless), asking me for assistance in obtaining copies of the same Harry Potter books for a similar translation feature. I put in about three hours of effort before the NYT published this feature, and the magazine canceled their plans. But don’t worry, they’re still paying me for my time, and even sent me some entirely unrelated Japan-related research work.