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Patrick Andrews

Multilingualism in Qing dynasty China

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We recently went to the exhibition "China's Hidden Century" at the British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/chinas-hidden-century, which was fascinating and, as is usually the case, language issues were very important.

The exhibition made it very clear that China was very much a multilingual society and there were recordings of texts in Mandarin, Cantonese, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan.  This large variety of languages reflected the languages that were spoken in the Empire and Beijing, in particular, was a multilingual cosmopolitan city.

I bought Lovell's (2011) book on the opium wars to learn more about the background.  At several points, she discusses language issues.  She describes how the Emperors had a desire to learn languages.  For example, Qianlong knew six languages and used Mongolian and Tibetan in audiences with representatives of these groups.  He stated "I use their own languages and do not use an interpreter ......to conquer them with kindness"  (Lovell 2011: 90).  So, he saw knowledge of languages as giving power.

Not knowing languages was also seen as a way of preventing enemies or rivals from having power.  The Qing did their best to prevent foreigners from learning Chinese and Manchu.  This even went as far as making teaching foreigners Chinese in Canton in the early nineteenth century a capital offence (Lovell 2011).

Current politicians in the UK who do little to promote the learning and teaching of modern foreign languages could learn from the Qing Emperors.

Lovell J (2011) The Opium War London: Picador


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Patrick Andrews

Graduation ceremony at Cardiff University

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I attended the graduation ceremony for my son at Cardiff University today.  He has been studying modern languages so it would be expected that there is a focus on languages but this was made extra special by the mixture of Welsh and English in the ceremony and reception.  This is reinforced by the mixing of these languages and, of course, many others in the city as a whole.




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Patrick Andrews

Language and the invasion of Ukraine

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 11:41

There has been much talk that the capital of Ukraine should be written in the style used in Ukrainian Kyiv rather than the Russian Kiev - see, for example 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/25/how-to-pronounce-and-spell-kyiv-kiev-ukraine-and-why-it-matters?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

I can see the argument for this but it also has to be considered that many Ukrainians are Russian speakers and many of these are also proudly Ukrainian.  I wonder whether insisting on the new spelling/pronunciation might have the unintended consequence of alienating some from their Ukrainian identities.

It is always difficult to compare language situations but Swansea are not called Abertawe in the Football League.  The supporters who speak English are no less Welsh than those who speak Welsh.  Using Russian for Kiev/Kyiv does not immediately seem to reduce support for the multilingual country of Ukraine.
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Patrick Andrews

Football and language again

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I have recently been watching the documentary "All or Nothing" about Tottenham last year.

There are a variety of languages used representing the multinational nature of the team.  I was interested to see Jose Mourinho talking one to one with the England international, Eric Dier in Portuguese.  Dier's Portuguese seemed fluent (but I am not expert on this) but I wonder whether there was a power dynamic at work here as it is obviously Mourinho's first language.

I was also struck by how often swear words were used as part of the culture.  Do the players and managers think this provokes more passion?  Interestingly, Amazon did not bleep out the "f word" but did bleep out the "c word".

There is also an interesting section where Mourinho learns the names of the players.  Again, there are aspects of hierarchies.  Harry Kane is called "Harry" so Harry Winks has to be called "Winksy".  He also asks the player Kyle Walker Peters if he is "Walker" or "Peters" and he replies "Walker Peters".  It seems surprising that Mourinho who has worked in Britain for a long time is not really aware of double barelled surnames.

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Patrick Andrews

Radio programme on superlinguists

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I have been listening to a very interesting radio programme on polyglots at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csz4pt

There are interesting points about the ways that knowledge of languages brings power (reference is made to Mandela learning Afrikaans, which was seen as the language of his oppressors but that it was much more useful for him to know it than not know it).  This seems to have resonance with the need for English speakers to know other languages.

A speaker explains how the knowledge of several languages helps her to gain respect.  It also helps her to break down stereotypes.

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Patrick Andrews

Language and identity

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018, 16:58

This article about an increasing interest in Luxembourgish is quite intriguing and relates to some of the issues discussed on some OU courses, especially L161, "Exploring Languages and Cultures"

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/28/luxembourgish-grand-duchys-native-language-enjoys-renaissance

One key theme of the article is the ability to have a private language.  As one person says "it expands your view and your children cannot talk in a secret language that you do not understand.”

I have also been reading "Flight" by the Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk and she writes pityingly of those who only speak English as follows:

"There are countries where people speak English .  But not like us - we have our own languages in our carry on luggage.... only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries.  It's hard to imagine but English is their real language.  They don't have anything to fall back on or turn to in moments of doubt.

"How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excrutiating pamphlets and brochures - even the buttons in the lift - are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment....." (Tokarczuk 2007/2017: 183).


Tokarczuk O (2007 translated 2017) Flight London: Fitzcarraldo.

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Patrick Andrews

Happy New Year

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The following link gives a translation for Happy New Year in a variety of languages:

http://www.dicts.info/translate/happy_new_year.php

I wish all the best for 2016 to anyone who reads this blog.


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Patrick Andrews

Briton in space, multlingualism and intercultural competence

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015, 17:44

I suppose I am showing my age if I state how interested I have always been by space exploration.  So, I have been very interested in newspaper coverage and television coverage of Tim Peake's flight.

One of the aspects that drew my attention was his need to study Russian during his training,  This was not surprising as he is traveling in a Russian craft and the Star Gazing programme last night mentioned how Russian is naturally the working language for the Soyuz flights although English will be used on the ISS.  The international nature of the ISS also presumably means there would need to be a high degree of intercultural competence on the part of the cosmo/astronauts.

Probably most viewers would have been aware of his physical, psychological and scientific skills but linguistic and intercultural competence must also be vital for these cosmo/astronauts.

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Patrick Andrews

New blog post

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A multilingual seasonal greetings sign seen in the underground (via the @OUDALEL twitter account).


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