Cure the Disease of English Worship


Have you ever noticed that Chinese people would love to talk to a foreigner in English even though his English is broken or that foreigner can speak fluent Chinese or he’s not from an English speaking country? I just found out there is a term for that which is called English worship syndrome.

Chinese education institution is keen on promoting English learning blindly. This foreign language fever has somehow had a bad effect on Chinese culture and mother tongue education.

This syndrome is deep down to the bone. In the big city like Shanghai, most parents have signed up weekend English classes for their kids. When the finance allows, they even hire native English speaker to tutor their kids. They don’t care if this teacher is qualified to teach English as long as English is his mother tongue. Usually a foreign tutor charges 200 Yuan an hour but a Chinese tutor can be found with only 50 Yuan.

In Shanghai, it’s hard to miss the numerous English training schools on the street. The fees are very high but the market is still growing. Why do we want to spend so much money on learning English? Is it because we truly love this language? I doubt.

Ever since we start to study English at primary school or even in kindergarten, we are always facing the tests. College students can’t get a bachelor degree if he fails to pass CET 4 (College English Test Grade 4) and English major students can’t graduate without TEM 4 (Test for English Major Grade 4) certificate. Not only does the certificate ensure the college degree, it’s also a must for some positions at workplace.

The crazy English learning certainly has reduced our time and energy in learning Chinese. I seldom hear parents take kids to Chinese classes during the weekend. They take it for granted that we don’t need to further study Chinese as it’s our mother tongue.

Both of my 12-year-old students told me that their teachers didn’t require them to practice characters when they were learning Chinese at primary school. As long as they can recognize the character, job is done. It leads to two problems: for one, a lot of kids now can’t write as many as character than we do; for another, their handwriting is terrible.

What’s worse, they say hi and bye instead of nihao and zaijian. Some of my friends like to pop up a few English words in daily conversation just to boast how good their English is. I also realized that I have exchanged so many emails in English with my Chinese fellows.

I felt ashamed when I was talking with an expat whose Chinese seems better than mine. Another foreign friend once told me a story behind a Chinese character which I had no clue. He said, “of course you don’t know that. It’s your mother tongue!” Well, I don’t think that’s the excuse.

Learning mother language is a responsibility. Protecting our language is our obligation. In France, protecting French and rejecting English is an important national policy. In Japan, they focus on cultivating foreign language elites instead of making everyone learn English. Though they speak English with funny accent, it doesn’t slow its pace of being a developed country.

Here comes another reason why we love to learn English. The government and education system make us believe that China would be stronger if every Chinese speaks English. The essence of worshiping English is worshiping foreign things. As science and technology is more advance in the west, we assume that the English language is more worth of being learnt. It’s more like denying ourselves rather than embracing a foreign culture and language.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn English as it is indispensible to mater a foreign language especially English in foreign affairs. However, the education bureau has exaggerated the function of foreign language. The CET gate has been open and it seems difficult to close it in a short time.

But I think it’s time to cure this disease. We could start with talking with foreigners in Chinese if they can speak Chinese and please don’t speak English with our Chinese colleagues. We should be proud of our language and give it enough dignity.

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Lending Money Ruins Friendship


 

We all have been there: a friend borrows $10 from us but never seems to have the cash available to pay you back. Weeks and weeks later, he buys a fancy car and shows it off in front of us. He has probably forgotten that $10 but the friendship has been damaged.

By today’s standard, $10 is a small amount, but what if it were $100, $1,000 or even more? 

Based on my personal experience, leading money could ruin friends. When money is involved, everything will be complicated and sensitive. One might lose friends caused by money issue. It has occurred to my parents and me a couple of times.

About 15 years ago, my father lent half of our family’s property to one of his closest friends. Mom was concerned, but dad was so confident about their friendship that he didn’t even require an I.O.U.

Sadly, it ended up like Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”. A loan to a friend resulted in the loss of both the friend and the money. Everytime Dad called him, he always said he would return the money as soon as possible. It’s been 15 years and we haven’t seen any penny back yet. If he made effort to return ¥100 every month, the load would be paid off this year. It’s obvious that he didn’t intend to pay us back.

When it comes to money, even if you have old ties or years of friendship, it’s all forgotten and disregarded.

My Dad lost money and a so-called ace buddy. Dad considered it as a big lesson in his life and he suggested I should think over before I lend or borrow money.

Nonetheless, I lent money to my best friend last year. It was a large amount that would take most new graduates half a year to earn. I lent it to her without question because I knew she would do the same for me if I needed her help. But to my disappointment, she didn’t return the money on schedule. I wasn’t mad about it because I understood that she might have trouble getting the money together.

What made me angry was that she didn’t say anything about it until I contacted her. We are friends. Why can’t we be honest with each other? I kept calling her and in the end, I got my money back.

So, why lending money ruins friendship? On one hand, we come to realize that we are actually giving money to them rather than lending it because they don’t have the intention to pay us back. Sometimes, we feel awkward to contact them to get the money back or we can’t be bothered knocking at their doors over and over. In this case, we lose the friends and our money.

On the other hand, we get the money back after a long process of nagging, complaining and harassing but we have already lost friends who don’t even understand why we are angry. Ironically, they are the ones who used to understand us the most.

It seems like lending money is one of the best ways to lose a friend and the money. If we lend the money, we will naturally chase our friend to get the money back; if we refuse to lend the cash, our friend will take it personally and the friendship is ruined. Actually, the friendship is ruined when a friend asks for money in the first place, regardless we lend the money or not. Therefore, my theory is that it’s better to have money back and lose a friend than losing both money and the friend.

Title Matters


As I was having dinner with a former classmate the other day, he passed me his new business card, featuring his new title: Chief Marketing Officer. My first thought was that he got promoted, but my friend quickly corrected me. “I’m just a small boss at a small company in charge of two people in a marketing department,” he said, laughing.

All of sudden, he became the one with the most important title in our friend circle. However, his job duty and authority haven’t changed.

Title inflation has become common in big commercial cities such as Shanghai. Companies like to give employees fancy titles. Even a small company might have a couple of marketing managers and operating directors. Some people try every means to add titles on their business cards to make them look more important. Employer gives employees a big title instead of promoting them with a bigger payment.

There is a joke about the title inflation in China: a brick fell from the Great Wall and crushed six people – five general managers and one assistant manager. It shows the serious problem of title inflation in China.

Chinese are famous for saving face. Most people, especially white collar workers and businessmen are sensitive about their titles and reputation. We care a lot about titles when contacting with people. An ordinary salesmen with a title of regional sales manger could not only help him develop his business, but also gratify his vanity in daily life.

It goes without saying that title inflation serves a purpose. It makes people feel good about themselves and boosts their standing with others. But my point is that one’s ability has to fit one’s title. When the titles or positions of President and Managing Director don’t mean why they used to mean, that’s a good sign that title inflation has been blown out of proportion.

When a person represents an organization or a company, it’s crucial that he at least appears to be on par with others at the table. If not, it’s likely that he and his company will get burned. When the title is hollow, the individual and everyone will know it.

I once held a position with the title of senior research analyst. At one meeting, a client deluged me with tough questions about my background and skills. As a junior, I didn’t have a lot of experience, but the client expected something deeper from someone with “senior” title. It made for an awkward encounter, but fortunately, the real senior analyst rescued me from the disaster.

Title inflation is also bad for the next employer who will take the employee’s former title as a reference and improperly evaluate the person’s ability. This would interfere with productivity, lead misinterpretation, and what’s more, cause a crisis of credibility.

However, on the opposite to title inflation, sometimes employees do a lot of work and take a lot of responsibilities but don’t get the title they deserve. Unfortunately, in reality, titles have a lot to do with salaries and career progression.

Whether it’s title inflation or deflation, both impact one’s business and career. Human resources should give appropriate titles to employees based on their experience and background.

Loss of Credibility Leads to Salt Stripping


 

Supermarkets and convenient stores in Shanghai have run out of salt in the last several days as the rumor spreading that a portion of city’s salt that comes from the Sea of Japan would be contaminated by the country’s radiation leaks.

The wave not only hit Shanghai, but also across provinces from eastern Zhejiang to southern Guangdong to western Sichuan.

In the face of the nation-wide salt stripping, most comments criticized that Chinese people lack popular science and rationality. Compared with Japanese’s calmness  facing the disaster, how ridiculous we are crazily grab salt for nothing.

It is true that lacking general knowledge and rationality can explain the panic purchase, but the criticism from the media is on condition that salt cannot guard against radiation exposure. Let’s flash back. What did media say what can prevent us from radiation after the nuclear leak? I remember they said salt. We are not buying salt without any reason. Moreover, has any expert used any words that we can understand to explain why we won’t be affected by radiation? I wonder how many common people are able to understand these technical terms said by the experts.

I was following the news of the fires and explosions at the nuclear power stations in Japan. Here come the Chinese experts. Before these explosions happened, we were not told this was even a possibility. After that, they stated it wouldn’t affect the surrounding areas. I guess these experts do not know what exactly is going on; however, they sent us a message with confidence which turned out to be wrong. It’s like slapping on their faces. Since what the experts have commented is on the opposite of the truth, how can we be rational and calm? How can we trust them?

Actually this is not the first time we have rushed to shop. We made panic purchase of vinegar during SARS; when miracle-working doctor was popular, green beans were snapped up; now, we are running out of salt. One of the major reasons is the loss of the credibility of public media and authoritative reference source. That’s why sometimes we tend not to believe the news. We are not to blame for that.

Chinese people always prepare for the rainy day. We rather believe it to be true than not when confronting with the rumor. The rumor released by a couple of people online and awakened the majority’s crisis awareness.

Though China National Salt Industry Corp, The Ministry of Health and other experts all posted information telling people that taking regular table salt cannot prevent radiation and the Chinese mine for the majority of salt, as much as 80 to 90 percent are taken out of rock salt deposits, the horrible sheep-flock effect was still going on. Why?

This incident can’t be merely concluded as rumor and blindness. It’s not least because that the government credibility has been lost seriously. In another word, if we truly believe government that the nuclear radiation wouldn’t affect China or do any harm to our health, then we wouldn’t listen to the rumor and purchase salt blindly.

U.S. Department of State reaffirmed the other day that China will not be affected by the nuclear radiation. Why the heck do we need foreign government to deny the rumor for us? Isn’t it our government’s duty? Isn’t it pathetic?

This could be another good example for the government to figure out how to improve the public trust. It is government’s responsible to send the accurate and efficient messages in the first place.

Be Careful What You Queue for


If you ask me what is the most common phenomenon in Shanghai, I would say queuing. With a population of 20 million, queues can be seen everywhere. It’s very likely that we will have to line up whenever we go to a supermarket, bank, hospital, let alone the shopping malls during sale season.

Shanghai people are well-known for their love of joining the crowd. A lot of people will follow lines without knowing where they are going. They take it for granted that good things are happening at the front of the line.

Last month, I went to a bakery where the croissants I love are half-off every Friday afternoon. The line was long because a large number of people were attracted to the sale. I was about to leave when I saw the host of a well-known local food program interviewing the girl standing at the end of the line.

“Why are you queuing? What are you going to buy in the bakery?” the host asked. “Well, I don’t know what I will buy because I have never been to this bakery,” she said. “They must have something special since so many people are in line.”

“We all know that middle-aged Shanghainese enjoy joining the crowd,” the host said. “But it seems some young people here like that too.”

Nowadays, queuing has developed into a business. If you search for queuing businesses in Shanghai, you will find a lot of small companies. I called one at random and told them that I needed someone to stand in line at the hospital to get my Chinese medicine next Tuesday. The guy said he would charge me 10 yuan ($1.50) an hour. He told me that they offered the service 24 hours a day and seven days a week. He added that they charge no more than 10 yuan an hour.

Why do people do this? Because people think that something worth waiting for must be good. It is due to this psychology that some businesses have adopted a new strategy to promote their products. My retired neighbor Mrs Ding just got hired last month to wait in line for a shoe store, whose owner advertises that his shoes are leather, even though they are not. To lend his products some credibility, the owner wanted to manufacture a long line outside his store to attract customers.

The owner paid Mrs Ding 50 yuan a day along with free meals. But she felt guilty about participating in a sham, so she quit after two days. However, she told me that she learned a lot about professional queuing in that time. Some fake line waiters have been hired by real estate developers and restaurants. Most of the hired line waiters are middle-aged women or retirees.

Good things may be worth waiting for. But it’s better to figure out what you are queuing for before spending your time.