All Aboard the Harmonious Forgiven Train
Ahh! Back from another trip to my ancestral home, Guangdong province, cradle of Cantonese language and civilisation. The government must have been working overtime the last month, or since I was there last, to drum into people that thing they do about Mandarin being the language of the gods and the only language on earth that has always been, is and will always be, etc.
For never have I met with such a resistance towards speaking Cantonese; when my
opponent interlocutor was clearly a native Cantonese speaker. People would switch to Mandarin in the middle of a Canto sentence, they would answer me in Cantonese, then immediately translate what they had just said into Mandarin, they would answer in Mandarin to the first six or seven Canto-sentences I asked them, only to turn around and talk to their colleague or friend in Canto.
Actually, Guangzhou, traditionally a not very obedient city when it comes to edicts from on high, was fine. It was particularly in Yeng Dak （英德）I couldn’t get a word of sense out of people.
So I fear that even Guangdong is no longer a paradise of Cantonese, but that it’s going the way of
Hong Kong where all whitey can only ever communicate in English and where local people would think they themselves can suddenly understand Swahili rather than accept that a foreigner is actually talking to them in the local language. French, Swedish, Urundi Burundian – anything but Cantonese.
This combined with the really crappy service at the Ai Qun Hotel and the terrible new taxi stand 500 meters away from the Guangzhou East train station plus the fact that all tickets to Hong Kong that day were sold out, had put me in a bit of a bad mood. But all was forgiven, all, when I finally got into the packed waiting room for the Shenzhen train and found this:
I mean – right? Who says that it shouldn’t be called an “extrance” when “entrance” is so patently a word. I’m totally with the Chinese there. Stop making English so inconsistent, I say. On the other hand, Chinese, stop calling everything, including the train to Shenzhen, “Harmony.” （和諧）We all know what you mean by that, namely: Do as we tell you, or else.