Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Everything Is a Proxy for the State, Including Language

Last week I wrote about my frustration with the passive-aggressive English opposition at my nominally "English only" school. Does it surprise anyone that it's just a manifestation of government policy?

I think a good rule of thumb is that increased nationalism is generally a cover for regime failure. When your government cracks down on innocuous individual expression like unapproved dance steps, or it asserts its prerogative to change the tenants of your religion, or it kills its only stellar accomplishment, it won't be too much later that they come out with some sort of "in-group v. out-group" rallying cry.

I've been told that the heads of my school know that the low rate of voluntary English usage is a problem, but they don't know how to fix it. So this year the foreign staff has tried to fix the problem for them. One particular colleague is getting closer and closer to flipping his lid in his quest to get the staff computers' operating system to stay set to English. I sent him a message that said, "When you finally go crazy and run through the halls naked setting Chinese dictionaries on fire, will you give me a heads up, because I will join you." He hasn't reached that point yet, but every time he tries to use the copy machine and finds it's been reset to Chinese, we get a little bit closer to that blog-worthy event.

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