Cultural Evolution This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 18, 2010
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In China, as in many non-English-speaking countries, everybody bemoans the loss of traditions and the gradually diminishing respect for the native language. I have been told this by the media, and I am constantly lectured by my teachers that we should resist encroachment by other cultures and foreign ways of thinking in order to keep our heritage intact. However, I believe we pay as much attention to our own culture and language today as we did in the past, and that it is a good idea to allow the influence of other cultures.

Every student in China must learn ­English in school, and many people have a problem with this. My history teacher spent an entire class diatribing the fact that English is compulsory. What he failed to realize is that learning another language does not mean we're abandoning our mother tongue. We speak, read, write, and listen to Chinese every day, so we are highly unlikely to wake up one day and find that we've forgotten its pronunciation or ­grammar.

My Chinese teacher in middle school even claimed that foreign languages were ruining Chinese, because so many Chinese people borrow words from English and other languages. For example, there is no Chinese word for “high” or “montage,” yet many people insist on saying “take too much drug” and “short shots edited into a sequence” instead of using an English word. Some people even believe that the media should stop using non-Chinese abbreviations such as NBC or WTO and use the unabbreviated forms.

I think the fuss over keeping Chinese the way it is is narrow-minded. Languages evolve, and it is inevitable that they influence one another. We don't speak the way our ancestors did a thousand years ago, so why get upset about changes in the past 10 years? English, Japanese, French, and others are also being influenced by other languages, so this foreign impact on Chinese should be considered normal and acceptable.

People also say that the Chinese culture and traditions are being replaced by foreign ones, but I think this is actually progress. When an aspect of a culture is no longer cherished, it is obsolete and becomes history. For instance, in the past, people stayed up all night on Chinese New Year's Eve. Most families do not do this anymore, because 36 hours with no sleep is detrimental to our health.

As for foreign cultures' invasion, I think it is good. For example, although China had its own Valentine's Day, nobody celebrated it. Therefore, when people began to make plans for the Western version of Valentine's Day, it was unreasonable to blame globalization for our neglect of our own Valentine's Day. On the contrary, the introduction of this Western tradition has helped China; stores, florists, restaurants, and many other businesses have another opportunity to make money.

Maybe languages and cultures today are evolving too fast for some to accept, but these changes are adaptations and evolution, and don't mean we have less respect for our mother tongue or traditions.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Hyun So said...
Jul. 29, 2014 at 11:25 pm
English is important. True. But, chinese and such other older languages are important more than English is, in my opinion. Please keep your culture intact, china. Because, I think China shouldn't get into the social problems that America is facing. (GUN SHOOTOUTS AND ALL THOSE). iT IS NOT WORTH IT. And china can survive as the greatest country only if they keep their good values intact. USA survived for only a hundred years. China can do five times of that. Good luck china.
rheame said...
Aug. 17, 2013 at 10:27 am
very true! but i would like to add that there needs to exist a balance between culture and modernisation so that the traditions arenot endangered . thank you!!
Wolffollower said...
Mar. 3, 2013 at 10:36 pm
Perhaps kids in US schools should be required to learn Chinese?  Although US cultural purism may be harder to spot than you describe, it certainly exists.  You make an important point that while remembering one's own culture is important, deviations from it can also be positive.  I think interractions with outside cultures and worldviews should ideally be seen as a chance to uphold a culture's resilience and strength, rather than cling rigidly to every small tenet.  
Rynn750 replied...
Nov. 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm
I'm actually learning Chinese in school right now :-) It's pretty hard but I'm getting there. I'm American but I think that learning about other cultures is very important because the world doesn't revolve around the United States.
TrollArchCEO said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm
I agree, respect for your culture is a great thing to have, but you should respect other peoples' culture as well.
Lola. said...
Sept. 25, 2010 at 1:33 am
It's nice to respect your culture, but I agree that we should keep an open mind about everyone else's culture as well.
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