Wednesday, May 16, 2007

方言

So this week I quit going to class in order to continue packing (hooray!) and filing taxes (hooray!) and other exciting things. However, when I was still going to class, my teacher gave me a poem which was written using Chinese characters but specifically meant to be read in Taiwanese (Minnanhua). So some words don't actually follow their original meaning, but are used to convey their phonetic meaning which a speaker of Taiwanese would understand.

Since a lot of words were still connected to their original meaning I could 大概 understand the meaning of the poem. This led to a discussion of sorts about dialects or local languages.

To me, I guess, Taiwanese seems a lot like Hawaiian pidgin. Actually, that's always been the one language I wish I knew. Well, ok, that and Chinese. But anyway, both had been suppressed before, and both are now rather inextricably connected to an emergent sense of local identity. While at the same time, they are incredibly personal. Even Taiwanese people who don't necessarily support the recent government decisions to emphasize teaching Taiwanese in schools have a fondness, and pride for the language itself.

However, since it is a language, or dialect, confined to a specific region, a poem written in that language is limited in its audience. Fewer people have the ability to truly understand what the poet is talking about. But perhaps this makes the identification that much stronger.

Like I said, I don't speak pidgin, but I do, well partially, understand it. Because my cousin speaks it. My mom's family is kamaiina of sorts. But our family are still katonks from the mainland. We did end up living with my grandparents for a month once, and even in a month my sister and I were already picking some stuff up. Part of it was because we were kids, and kids just pick things like that up quicker, and part of it was because a lot of pidgin is based off of the pidgin Japanese that my family uses. Zots from zoris. etc. And then some of it was just made up, my uncle for example is bolohead.

Anyway, like poems in Taiwanese, there has been fiction written in pidgin. Although I don't always enjoy all of it, and something often tells me that I'm missing something, since I don't speak pidgin for real. However, I would say that sometimes local languages are able to convey something that is truly unable to be expressed by the bigger ones. It's really hard to explain, but there it is.

2 comments:

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

one of my biggest regrets is that no matter how hard i try, i cannot learn every language...there just isn't time.

lovelesscynic said...

It's true. Very true. And then there's the question of learning them well enough to use them. And that takes even more time.