The simple answer is that I love Taiwan dramas. The slightly more complicated answer is that I love languages. That’s why, despite this being a blog technically dedicated to Taiwanese dramas, I decided to share a TED talk video in my very first post.
I’m an ABC, the acronym for American-born Chinese. I was raised to learn Chinese first, before I started to learn English in school. Even then, home was a place where I could speak only Chinese. Of course, when I was little, I hated it. English was the cool thing, Chinese was hard. But in hindsight, I can’t thank my parents enough for pushing me to keep my Chinese language. Not just because knowing two languages in our increasingly global society is helpful in the professional realm, although that is definitely a plus. More importantly, keeping in touch with the Chinese language has kept me deeply rooted in the Chinese culture, tradition, and mind-set.
Tim Doner conveyed this very well. There are so many things imbedded in human language. Only when the culture requires the creation of a word will such a word exist. The common idioms and phrases, or even the slangs can reflect a particular mind-set of the people speaking that language. For example, Chinese people often address each other as “哥哥” (Ge Ge) or “姊姊” (Jie Jie). The former means “older brother”, and the latter is “Older sister”. But even friends who are not blood related at all will address each other that way. There literally is no English translation for that. Why? Because the respect for elders and the focus on age, as well as the mind-set of establishing close relationships like one big family is embedded within the Chinese culture. Similarly, if we look at two idioms in Chinese: “臨時抱佛腳” (Lin Shi Bao Fo Jiao), literally translated into “Suddenly hugging the Buddha’s feet”. The phrase is used to describe someone who waits until the last minute to do something, and prays to Buddha that it will turn out fine. The second is this: “泥菩薩過江，自身難保” (Ni Pu Sa Guo Jiang, Zi Shen Nan Bao), literally translated to “the clay Buddha crossing the river, can’t even protect himself”. This phrase is usually said when someone is already in danger himself. How do you expect him to help you? Why did I bring these up? I’m not saying that all Chinese people are Buddhists, because we’re not. But Buddhism is embedded within our culture, just as “bless you”, a phrase in English you say to someone who just sneezed came from Christian beliefs that God bless you and save your life.
So… what does this have to do with Taiwan dramas? I have another story… A huge part of my Chinese language learning experience actually came from watching Taiwanese dramas. Even AP Chinese language prep books will say that watching dramas is a good way to learn the language. (For non-Americans, AP are college level equivalent courses that high school students take for college credit.) Even though I might visit Taiwan as often as I can, I’m still mostly in America, so my exposure to the Taiwan culture is limited. Watching dramas lets me keep in touch with my Taiwan roots. I can hear and see and almost experience what the latest trends are. It’s like I’ve been immersed in Taiwan, even though I’m physically half way across the world.
But I really should stop. I can ramble about how Taiwanese dramas really are more than just entertainment, although they definitely are entertaining. In the meantime, please just enjoy Tim Doner’s talk, and feel free to explore this humble blog to know more about what addiction I’m talking about.
Original TED talk webpage: http://tedxteen.com/talks/tedxteen-2014/209-tim-doner-breaking-the-language-barrier