Cliches can't reach foreign audiences

By Han Zhen Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-10 19:30:02

The Chinese people have their own time-honored traditions and ways of speaking. And before reform and opening-up began, the Chinese had little contact with foreigners. Thus we've gradually established our own set ways of expression.

When dealing with other countries, we keep talking the same way. This is often ineffective and even counter-productive.

The key instead is to tell Chinese stories that have global meanings, but with a down-to-earth attitude.

China has already become the second largest economy in the world, and we have to pay attention to the way things work both domestically and in the world at large. We have to find a better way to talk to our domestic public as well as to talk to the world.

When we talk to foreigners, if we simply apply the expressions we're used to at home, they will be hard for foreigners to accept, which in turn hinders mutual understanding.

However, if we adopt a completely different way to talk to foreigners, we may end up being seen as two-faced. This facilitates neither consolidating a domestic consensus nor establishing mutual trust with foreign countries.

This means finding the best language to communicate. We have to find the proper register and language when speaking and writing.

This can be easily understood. I was born in Shandong Province, but I've already lived in Beijing for more than three decades. When I return for the Spring Festival holidays to reunite with my extended family back home, I have to adjust my tone, register, and dialect, or nobody will understand me.

But in order to change our way of expression, we first have to change the way we think and approach problems. For instance, when we're delivering a speech or writing an article, we use completely different tones for different target audiences.

We say things differently when we're talking to our superiors rather than the public, or whether we see the public as masters of the country or people who need to be educated and managed.

It's time for us to change the way we speak both at home and abroad. We have to first adjust our perspective of approaching issues and our view of the world.

We have to figure out whether we're really thinking deeply about social interests when speaking or writing, or whether we're just trying to curry favor by saying the usual claptrap. A different mentality will definitely reflect different values and tones.

The author is vice president of Beijing Normal University and professor at its Research Center for Value and Culture.


Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus