Ideas for blog posts – your “literacy history”

You are currently studying at the University of Edinburgh, which is possible for a small percentage of the total population. How did you get to be here? Think about your development from childhood up to now, and what the influences and changes have been. Write a blog post about one of these:

  • was there a person in your life when you were younger, who really encouraged you? Perhaps this was a grandparent, or a teacher? Write about this person – describe him / her and some of the events you remember fondly from your early years
  • did you make a big decision for a career in your teens? What brought you to that decision – was it something that happened? Did you have a choice, and you still wonder if you made the right choice? Write a story about the event.
  • do you have a favourite book or books? What was it about the book that made it so magical, and makes it continue to be your favourite? Write about how you feel when you think about the book.
  • have you moved around, either within the same country or to different countries? Have you had to learn different languages or accents or dialects? What do you think about them? Do you have a favourite language / dialect / accent? How did you discover that you felt like this about speaking/listening? Write about your thoughts and feelings about languages and accents.

One thought on “Ideas for blog posts – your “literacy history”

  1. Happy New Year! Wish you all a prosperous Year of Dragon!
    I chose the last topic partly because I am interested in it. And another important reason for choosing is about the outbreaking news about a Chinese professor’s statement and its aftermath. Before I analyse the case, I would like to present some helpful background information.
    Preserving a variation of language is culturally, socially, and politically beneficial (Joseph, 2006), especially when a varation is closely associated with a preferred identity. Such idea has been written by some recent bloggers (e.g. Cultural difference between peoples from two places occurs when these areas are geographically or politically separated for a long period. When I moved to my company’s base in Hong KoNG in 2009, I found my mainland Cantonese could not suffice because the ideological difference between Guangdong (Canton) and HongKong was huge. However, the difference between the collectivism of the Mainland and individualism in Hong Kong culture, like those between other cultures, seems to be ignored when a same linguistic features are shared by the speakers from these two areas.Therefore, these linguistic features in variations are communial rather than individual and are associated with the whole community of practice within the speakers.
    Some Hongkongers tend to refer to ‘mainlanders’ as with bad connotation for some political reasons. A Hongkong blogger says, “A kid peeing or defecating on a moving train is just as surprising here as it would be if it happened in Edinburgh, and it heightens prejudices when the kid then speaks Putonghua(An offical term for Mandarin Chinese in mainland China).”At the same time, Taiwanese Mandarin are generally interpreted by Taiwanese as tonically differnt from Putonghua (see But many other variations of spoken Chinese in the Mainland vary in tones as well, therefore, the so-called difference is viewed by many scholars as reflection of political differences across the straight.
    The case of Cantonese is slightly different. ‘The Cantonese language is also viewed as part of the cultural identity for the native speakers across large swathes of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible largely because of pronunciation and grammatical differences'(cited from, it is always futile to expect a Putonhua (or Mandarin) speaker to comphrehend what a Canonese speaker is talking about if the latter will not or cannot switch. As might have been experienced by many people from other provinces due to the increasing mobility in the last 3 decades. Sometimes, such breakdown in communication may trigger seriuos outbreaks of anger. A most recent case is Kong Qingdong’s insult on Hong Kong people only two days before the Chinese Lunar New Year this week, which was started with his furious rage over Hong Konger’s speaking Cantonese in explaining Metro regulations to mainland visitors in MTR, yet going on to say( in Putonghua of course) that Hong Kong “society’s order is maintained by law, which means that you (Hong Kong people) have no self-restraint, which means that you are a vile (賤) people” (Translation by Wikipedia from Ming Po, see
    Three days after his explosive statement have seen a rapid spreading of the video (as I have cited in my blog) and millions of clicks followed by outraged response, mostly Canonese speakers.
    It is interesting taht not only Cantonese, but Taiwanese, Shanghai variation speakers has joined the strand of anti-Kongism.What does this tell us? Perhaps these people, who were mostly provoked by Kong’s hostility towards non-Putonghua speakers, don’t view their languages as inferior ‘dialects'(a term I have been avoided using because of similar reason) to a so-called mainstream language, however widely the latter one is used in formal aspects of social life.
    Another thinking this story has aroused in me is about its implication of the deeply embedded stereotype due to linguistic difference. I have nothing to say to the likely commercial intention of the video-site or possible social scientific research behind the story, but the social interaction brought up by the issue is objective reality. In the words used by two sides (not including the cautious official response by HongKong SAR government and the surprising ambiguous silence from Beijing), I found Putonghua is constantly referred to in most replies by hong Kongers as associated with rudeness and authoritarianism (Chinese Communist Party in particular).
    I think the dominant negative response the video receives on the Internet and newspapers has heavily addressed the society’s need of tolerance. Everyone speaks in his/her particular way, both in terms of pronunciation or preferred expressions. Usually, these preferences have been formed through a long historical process. Historically, movement from one city, province, or country to another can cause accental change to one’s language. This is because adaptation to a new environment involves necessary convergence to the local way of speech. A case in point is that the increasing number of imigrants from northern provinces into Guangdong for manufacturing jobs have been picking up Cantonese since the first day they arrived. Perhaps Kong would have to adjust his angle if he happened to be one of those imigrants.

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