I am told that as a learned man, writing is a habit like a walk after dinner. To keep your brain fit and efficient, against the Alzheimer’s or the superficiality in this pop culture. Thinking takes place just as a albatross gliding over the roof, or a lightning flashing in a corner of the sky. Never last long or make a difference to the thinker’s life, in most cases. But once the thinker is writing, ideas are flowing through a channel. Or at least, start to flow as a continuum of fluid.
A question occurs to me, at this moment. In what kind of channel should I choose ? Surely one can write down opinions in the most convenient way, in his mother tongue. Since human languages can be so different that an idea feels ugly or awkward or even distorted when delivered in a different language. Perhaps this correlation is the origin of ‘culture shock’. But is there any trouble? Cannot I interpret the ideas from Confucius in a plain, daily-used English to a bank clerk at NDFCU? I am sure I can do this because I am so familiar with the classics of Confucius and his pupils and I am also trained well in English. Maybe the difficulty comes from my understanding into ancient Chinese words in that arcane lines. But there is surely no barrier between modern Chinese and English once the juicy idea is harvested in the basket of modern mandarin.
So what is the culture shock here anyway? Perhaps the crevice lies between the modern Chinese and traditional Chinese. Or perhaps the meaning of the lines are totally disfigured in the translated English version. I am not quite sure which is the dominant one. When I read Shakespeare’s works, Allan Poe’s or Pearl Buck’s, the language does not change too much. Shakespeare made some substitution of some verbs and nouns, that is all. The tradition is well preserved. Allan Poe’s magnificent, lavish language shocked me at first. But that is still English, in a way to tell horrible stories in a civilized way. Pearl Buck reads like modern English very much, lacking some buzz words today, though. But Chinese does changed quite a lot. It is still evolving at an astonishing rate today. It is only recent that I came to know the meaning of Confucius’ lines: ‘Truth does not depart from human nature. If what is regarded as truth departs from human nature, it may not be regarded as truth’ from the translation of Lin Yutang, a great Chinese thinker and excellent English author, as a friend of Pearl Buck. The culture shock, perhaps, does not seem to be important in front of the eternal ‘human nature’. However, disputes and distinctions are still there.
Sometimes I feel like abandoned by two great cultures. Marginally understanding the Chinese classics —- as only several popular quotes from Lao Tzu or Confucius, while still getting handicapped in expressing myself in English —- even a simple thank you email needs a half an hour to polish. When I take a look back at the essays written in my blog before, both in Chinese and English. I feel really flattered by the grades given by teachers at that time or embarrassed by my confidence. The things are written was worth to read but not quite worth to remember. Perhaps it is not the worst. I may not even know to think now. Critical thinking and logical derivations are quite well embraced in western side of globe, but the vivid, picturesque oriental imagination and inspiration is also a great intrigue.
Nowadays, it seems that asking which sort of channel is out of question. English becomes the dominant global technical and business language and even take the lead of the modern pop culture. To be a good English writer is a basis for professional success. Ambition is fulfilled by mastering this language to usher opinions formally and systematically. Aesthetic values may be put aside, since nobody from the other shore of Pacific can write so beautiful English as Lin Yutang.
But I am still trying to find a shelter for my ideas, in this second language. Perhaps in my own style, free from being broken or awkward.