Sunday, August 30, 2009

[winnie the pooh] crosses the cultural divide

It's good to go to official sites from time to time to get the official line. One such site is Dipnote, the U.S. State Department blog, which made a plea to be given a chance when it first began:

Granted, we're new at this, but just ask that you give the blog a chance. It's an open forum where you can actually discuss foreign policy issues with State Department officials and fellow bloggers. The question of the week this week is "What will life in Cuba be like after Castro?"

To be fair, that site has done well and is more a National Geographic of the blogosphere now. Where it gets interesting and sometimes amusing is the totalitarian sites, such as the Chinese Government's site, where the spin on such people as the Dalai Lama is interesting to read, given that the world knows the Chinese government's attitude already.

Thus we have "more than ten political organizations protesting the visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan" and so on. Today's nifty little vid is the Chinese government spokesperson explaining to us about the Winnie the Pooh production "very popular with children and even some adults".

"The famous cuddly bear is regarded as one of the most lovable, honest and friendly cartoon characters", presumably The Three Virtues of Character to which all should aspire. Listening to Winnie deliver his lines in Mandarin, [correct me if I have the language wrong here], is an education in itself. "In the show, he gives good advice to the youngsters, about eating healthy food like honey ... and doing exercises every day."

There is then an interview with a technician about the new technology and you can see this in the wonky Chinatube called, believe it or not "CCTV". Do they see anything ironic in that? I suppose one can be too cynical, a relic of the decadent west and not one of The Three Virtues of Character - to look at the Chinese children's faces of wonder and even bewilderment, one should be ashamed of one's bemusement, if one were so inclined, as one ought to be.

A cute interview follows with one of the tots:

The wholesome information the performance conveys impresses not only the children, but also their parents.

"I love Piglet, who do you like?"

"I love Piglet too!"

"Besides Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore is my favorite too. The lovely donkey. And you?"


This was the sort of thing I was involved with in Russia and my task was to lift the dialogue and dissertations out of the cultural context of the host and into the idiom of English.

They are the most dedicated people in trying to be authentic and not to be held up to ridicule and I imagine the Chinese would be the same. Once, when I could barely conceal a smile at the way one girl had expressed herself, she asked me, point blank, what she had said wrong and the last thing I wanted to be was patronizing because her English was excellent and my Russian only rudimentary, so I knew my place.

I said that the way she'd spoken it, with those Russian mannerisms and the slightest of accents, was actually delightful to English ears.

"No, no," she was horrified, "I want to do it correctly."

"It was correct, perfectly correct but even the things you chose to speak on and your mannerisms were quite Russian in nature. As for your accent, in Britain, it would be very highly regarded, especially by the boys." Then I explained one of the reasons Anne Boleyn had been such a hit at the English court. She wasn't satisfied though and wanted to be "perfect".

So it was not to mock the parents, teachers and children that I wrote as I did above - it's a very rewarding field and a win-win situation.


CherryPie said...

Reminds me of a German friend who has lived in Britain for years and she still hasn't lost the little mannerisms and still not got the British sense of humour. She does have a sense of humour though :-)

James Higham said...

It's quite endearing when they retain some vestige of their own culture.

jams o donnell said...

It was good to find out that my friend in Paris remains resolutely English and his partner resolutely Irish.