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I would use my broken English, even though it would be extremely difficult. When the birthday party was over, I mopped the floor and did the washing-up.
An idea for a novel was already forming in my mind. I would make an advantage out of my disadvantage. I would write a book about a Chinese woman in England struggling with the culture and language. She would compose her own personal English dictionary. The novel would be a sort of phrasebook, recording the things she did and the people she met.
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I had to overcome the huge obstacle of my poor English. Instead, I decided to teach myself. Perhaps this was a huge mistake? As I studied day and night I grew more and more frustrated with English as a language, but also as a culture. The fundamental problem with English for me was that there is no direct connection between words and meanings.
In Chinese, most characters are drawn and composed from images. Calligraphy is one of the foundations of the written language. Yang signifies things with strong, bright and hot energy. But in English, sun is written with three letters, s, u and n, and none of them suggests any greater or deeper meaning. Nor does the word look anything like the sun!
Visual imagination and philosophical understandings were useless when it came to European languages. Technically, the foremost difficulty for an Asian writer who wants to write in English is tense.
Verb conjugations in English are, quite simply, a real drag. We Chinese never modify verbs for time or person, nor do we have anything like a subjunctive mood. All tenses are in the present, because once you say something, you mean it in your current time and space. There is no past or future when making a statement. We only add specific time indicators to our verbs if we need them.
But in English the verb has all the following forms: Mastering conjugations was a serious struggle for me, almost a dialectical critique of the metaphysics of grammar. The use of 'I' requires thinking of yourself as a separate entity in society.
For example, my grammar book said: They were bizarre decorations that did nothing but obscure a simple, strong building. My instinct was to say something like: But it made me uncomfortable. After all, how could someone who had grown up in a collective society get used to using the first-person singular all the time? But in China no one is a separate entity: But here, in this foreign country, I had to build a world as a first-person singular — urgently.
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Still, the desire and will to work on a first book in English propelled me through the difficulties. Every day, I wrote a detailed diary, filled with the new vocabulary I had learned.
The diary became the raw material for my novel, the one I had imagined while mopping the floor after my 30th birthday party: I knew it would have little chance at ever being published, since I had written it using such broken English in a country awash with BBC voices and the perfect sentences of the Queen.
And Britain was not like China, where writers could post their manuscripts directly to publishing houses. I leafed through it. Two hours away in the Chinese city of Suzhou, known for its unique architecture and waterways, there are dozens of duplicated bridges, including a version of Paris' Pont Alexandre III and a mutated clone of London's famed Tower Bridge, featuring four towers instead of two.
And outside of Beijing, past the Great Wall, there is a version of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, complete with cowboys, a church and Route 66 which doesn't actually run through the actual Wyoming. And China's Jackson Hole homes have sold well. One reason for these architectural oddities is that modern China's concept of history has changed over the years.
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When the Chinese economy started to skyrocket in the early s, people wanted a new house to make them feel successful, so they duplicated architecture from other countries. Author Bianca Bosker calls this phenomenon "duplitecture. Among the options, there is no Cleveland town.
The cities and landmarks we see copied over and over again in China are those associated with countries and cultures that oftentimes command a lot of influence and often a lot of wealth," Bosker told "Nightline. In the suburbs of Shanghai, there is a place called Thames Town, which is modeled after London.
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Besides its Tudor architecture, Thames Town has a Harry Potter statue, a Winston Churchill statue, the iconic red phone booths and security guards dressed in British uniforms.