Saturday, October 29, 2005

Where are the interculturalists?

Kerim over at Savage Minds bemoans the lack of linguistic anthropologists among the interviewees written up in a Forbes special issue on communicating. Virtually rolling his eyes, he groans, "When they wanted an article on 'cross-cultural communication' they went to a zoologist!"

I'm feeling similarly after skimming through the articles--but I'm wondering where the scholars in intercultural communication are--or the speech comm. people in general. Or a token rhetorician. I mean, the topic is communication...

Don't ...

You'd think ...

I mean ...

Oh, never mind.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bourdieu_boy on Hero

Bourdieu_boy has a smart analysis of Zhang Yimou's Hero that I've been meaning to link to. One quote in particular, that compares Hero to Crouching Tiger, stood out for me:
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon spoke from the margins of the Chinese-speaking world, from the diaspora, Chinese-America, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, and from this position addressed both the rest of the world and mainland China itself. Hero has stepped up to speak from the centre in an indignant register, aiming to be more spectacular, more impressive and more successful than its marginal rival. Hero can be understood as an emphatic and wholly deliberate response by mainland cultural producers to both the globalization of Chinese culture and the presumption of other "Chinas" to speak for China.
I remember when Crouching Tiger came out, I looked somewhat condescendingly upon its "Chineseness." So this piece is something of an antidote to my previous chauvinism. (What right would I have to be a Chinese cultural chauvinist, anyway?)

Another tempting CFP: Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis

Found this at the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication website. The ICIC's Third Annual Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis will be held in June, 2006. I copied the cfp details from their flyer (a Word document... can I just mention that it drives me crazy when folks do that?):
Call for Abstracts

3rd Annual Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Written Discourse Analysis

June 7, 2006

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Chairs: Ulla Connor (IUPUI) and Alan Hirvela (The Ohio State University)

Papers are invited on topics including (but not limited to):
  • Theoretical and Empirical Investigations
  • Language- and Culture-Specific Studies
  • Changing Methodologies for Research
  • Practical Applications
  • Teaching and Classroom Practices
  • Writing in School and College
  • Writing in Business and Professional Settings
  • Orality and Literacy Connections
  • Critical Approaches to Contrastive Rhetoric

Deadline for Submission: April 1, 2006
Notice of Acceptance/Rejection: April 15, 2006

Papers should be 20 minutes long with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words long, typed on a single page. In the upper left-hand corner, place the submitter's name, address, institutional affiliation, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address. Send submissions to:

Ulla Connor
Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication
ICIC Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric & Written Discourse Analysis
620 Union Drive – Union Bldg. Rm. 407
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5170

For more information:

(317) 274-2555

Registration Fees (Lunch Included): $70 early registration, $80 onsite registration
$35 student registration, $45 onsite student registration
Sounds interesting...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tempting CFP: "Intervention in Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Encounters"

Came across this cfp for the 2nd Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies. The deadline is Nov. 30 and the conference date is in July 2006. But I've gotta work on the big D...

Some details about the conference (swiped from the cfp):
Translators, interpreters, and other intercultural communicators and commentators are indispensable mediators in processes involving the movement of people, ideas, technologies, and literatures between different places, cultures, languages, and even times. Their role can, however, also be described as one of intervention, which stresses a more-or-less self-conscious commitment to effecting change and determining outcomes in societal, cultural, economic and other encounters. This, the 2nd Conference of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS), aims to address issues of intervention in interlingual and intercultural encounters, asking, for example, how such intervention can be conceptualised and enacted? And if, following Hermans (2001), such encounters require the speaking subject to position itself in relation to, and at a critical distance from, a source text, does intervention grow as we take up positions that are in direct opposition to source texts? Or does maintaining the status quo not itself sometimes imply complicity with a position that may change the future for others?

Following the success of its inaugural conference in Seoul in 2004, the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies now invites proposals for papers and panels addressing the theme of Intervention in Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Encounters. The Conference will welcome contributions in areas where the ethical and ideological dimensions of translation, interpreting and other intercultural practices have traditionally been a focus, as well as in areas where these dimensions have been addressed less explicitly, although they are always present. Contributions in the following areas are thus particularly encouraged:
  • Interpreting cultural interfaces

  • Translator and interpreter training
  • Language survival and nation-building/nationalism/transformation
  • Post-colonial acculturation and hybridity
  • The translation of literature (adult and children's) as intervention
  • Oral literary traditions and folklore as intervention
  • Globalisation and localisation in the developed/ing world
  • Interpreting and the authentic voice
  • Interpreting silences
  • Corpus translation/interpreting studies
  • Forensic linguistics
  • Translation technology
  • The crisis of representation in Western theory
Contributions may be approached from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds including, but not restricted to: anthropology, corpus-based studies, cultural studies, gender studies, intercultural studies, interpreting studies, linguistics, literary theory, localisation, media studies, pedagogy, postcolonial studies, pragmatics, sociology, translation technology.

The conference will be held at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa and will be truly international in its outlook, while at the same time drawing on South Africa's recent and rich experience of cultural and political transformation.
Well, maybe next time, though I have an idea for a paper on translating silences...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

BBC News on Taiwan's work on a Tamiflu copy

BBC News has an article titled "Taiwan to ignore flu drug patent" on its website.

I wrote this commment to BBC:
I don't think the headline "Taiwan to ignore flu drug patent" is an accurate reflection of the situation. The health official you quoted does say that they are in communication with Roche to try to get permission to mass produce. So they're not "ignoring" the patent.

Also, you might mention that Taiwan has never been allowed into the World Health Organization. (This means it probably won't get any WHO assistance if the bird flu attacks the island, just as it didn't get [any real] assistance from WHO when SARS struck.) In the end, we might need to balance the company's right to a patent against the right of the people of Taiwan to live.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekend projects


  • Figure out what went wrong after I upgraded the ZoneAlarm firewall on our desktop computer. Now we can't access the Internet at all on that computer (but I can on this notebook, which is on a wireless network with the desktop). I even removed the firewall from the desktop, but the Internet connection still doesn't work. Help!!!
    [Update, 10/24/05: Still trying to figure this one out. I tried the "complete uninstall" but there are about 3 files I just can't get rid of. Whenever I get on the Web I get Zone Alarm's warning page that they've locked down the Internet service. Then they give me a bunch of instructions that don't work. I'm contemplating a complete reformat of my C drive (!), but will try a few more things before I get to the point...]
    [Update, 10/28/05: Finally got the Zone Alarm completely uninstalled. Didn't have to reformat C drive, either. Evidently I'm not the only person who has problems with Zone Alarm 6.0. 5.0 worked fine for me and I wish I still had a copy of it to reinstall. Now I've got to find a decent firewall program that won't gum up the works again...]

  • Check in on the online chat that the students in my Intercultural Communication class will be doing (either Friday night or Saturday morning--not sure yet). I'm enjoying that class--got a great bunch of students. (Actually, I've always had a great bunch for that course!)
    [Update, 10/24/05: The chat seemed to go OK. There will probably be another one Tuesday morning for those who couldn't make it on Saturday.]

  • Respond to the ICC students' comments on our course blog. I'm way behind on that...
    [Update, 10/24/05: Er... uh...]

  • Put together a poster for the upcoming workshop on the teaching and practice of writing that our department will be hosting (Saturday, Dec. 3). The title of the workshop: "Situating Writing Instruction in an EFL Context: A Conversation with Charles Bazerman". Dr. Bazerman, who is professor of education at UCSB, will present on text type in teaching and on theory and practice of writing assessment and we'll have panel discussions on those topics, too, and how they might be applied in writing instruction in Taiwan universities. (Also, perhaps, on how EFL contexts like Taiwan's can challenge North American understandings about teaching text type and assessing writing.) Should be fun! I also need to get some work done on the website for the workshop. Got a draft up, but I'm not ready to unveil it yet...
    [Update, 10/24/05: We (the former native Chinese speaker and I) got the poster done. Looks good and will be sent to a university English department near you soon! (If you're near a university English department in Taiwan, that is...)]

  • Continue preparing for dissertation-related interviews that will be coming up in the next few weeks.
    [Update, 10/24/05: Worked a bit on this. Mostly basked in the nice, helpful, and encouraging comments from my advisor, though...]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Babelfish: a new approach to EFL composing?

Recently I've been coming across some English compositions that have me completely dumbfounded. They contain sentences the likes of which I have never seen--grammatical errors and diction problems that are completely new to me (and I've been teaching EFL writing for over 10 years). I am about 90 percent sure that the students writing these compositions are composing in Chinese, then using some sort of translation program (either online or some software) to translate the compositions into English. As you can probably guess, the compositions that come out of such an approach are sometimes pretty bizarre. I'm not going to quote any student writing here, but I'll copy some text that I plan on showing them tomorrow.

I copied a paragraph from one of the stories we read, "The Judge's House" (originally written by Bram Stoker and retold in simplified version by Rosemary Border), into the Babelfish translator. Here's the sentence:
He almost dropped the lamp. He stepped back at once, and the sweat of fear was upon his pale face. His knees shook. His whole body trembled like a leaf. But he was young and brave, and he moved forward again with his lamp.
Then I had the translator turn it into Chinese:
他幾乎投下了燈。他立即跨步, 並且恐懼汗水是在他的蒼白面孔。他的膝蓋震動了。他的整體打顫了像葉子。但他是年輕和勇敢的, 並且他再今後搬走了與他的燈。
The Chinese is a bit odd (OK, it's positively weird). First of all, "dropped" becomes "threw"; then "stepped back" becomes "stepped" (no indication of direction); "the sweat of fear was upon his face" is rendered into very unidiomatic Chinese. A more likely sentence would be something like "他蒼白的面孔上冒出了恐懼的汗水。" (I'm sure someone can come up something better, but...) His knee is now no longer shaking--it's vibrating. And so on... Toward the end, "he moved forward again with his lamp" becomes a sentence about moving out (as in, from one's home) again from this day forward... er... with his lamp.

Just for the fun of it, I used Babelfish to translate the Chinese back into English:
He has nearly thrown down the lamp. He steps immediately the step, and the frightened sweat is in his pale face. His knee vibrated. His whole trembled has liked the leaf. But he is young and brave, and he from now on moved out and his lamp again.
If you're saying, "Huh?", you're right. And this is what I'm seeing: mistakes that I've never seen non-native writers make before. Mistakes that are different--and usually more severe--than they probably would have made had they written it themselves in the first place.

My question about this is, how does this fit into the usual discussions of student writing and academic integrity? I sort of feel that if used correctly, these translation programs aren't much worse than using bilingual dictionaries--if the students can be taught not to depend on them blindly, the programs can help. (I've used them sometimes to help me write stuff in Chinese--but usually I have to do a lot of "repair work" to what gets produced.)

On the other hand, I also have to think that one of my purposes for asking students to write something is for them to practice using the English that they have already learned rather than merely generating English text. Perhaps I need to make that purpose clearer to them...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Abecedaria on Chinese dyslexia

Link here. The author, Suzanne McCarthy, cites C K Leong, a professor who has worked on this topic for quite a number of years. Very interesting.

Uses and abuses of the "impact factor"

Crooked Timber has a post about an article in the latest Chronicle of Higher Ed regarding uses and abuses of the concept of the "impact" factor by journals in or wanting to be in the ISI's listings of "important" journals. (ISI--owned by Thomson--produces the SSCI, SCI, and A&HCI, as we'll recall.) One interesting place in the Chronicle article is where Eugene Garfield, who helped develop the concept of the impact factor, "compares his brainchild to nuclear energy: a force that can help society but can unleash mayhem when it is misused":
"We never predicted that people would turn this into an evaluation tool for giving out grants and funding," says Mr. Garfield.
One abuse of the impact factor is the pressure to self-cite (that is, cite other articles published in the same journal) in order to boost the journal's impact factor. Another problem has to do with the shaky relationship between journals' impact factors and that of the articles published in those journals:

Mr. Garfield and ISI routinely point out the problems of using impact factors for individual papers or people. "That is something we have wrestled with quite a bit here," says Jim Pringle, vice president for development at Thomson Scientific, the division that oversees ISI. "It is a fallacy to think you can say anything about the citation pattern of an article from the citation pattern of a journal."

Such warnings have not helped. In several countries in Europe and Asia, administrators openly use impact factors to evaluate researchers or allocate money:

  • In England, hiring panels routinely consider impact factors, says Mr. Nevill.

  • According to Spanish law, researchers are rewarded for publishing in journals defined by ISI as prestigious, which in practice has meant in the upper third of the impact-factor listings.

  • In China, scientists get cash bonuses for publishing in high-impact journals, and graduate students in physics at some universities must place at least two articles in journals with a combined impact factor of 4 to get their Ph.D.'s, says Martin Blume, editor in chief of the American Physical Society, who recently met with scientists in China.

The obsession with impact factors has also seeped into the United States, although less openly. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, says a young faculty member once told him about a policy articulated by her department chair. She was informed that in order to get tenure, scientists should publish in journals with an impact factor above 5.

"We are slaves to the impact factor," says Mr. Frank, whose organization publishes 14 science journals.

Although the article is focused on the sciences, one might wonder if there are similar problems with the abuse of this approach in the social sciences and humanities. (It's not hard to guess what my answer to that would be...)

There's an online discussion hosted by the Chronicle. (Begins at 1 p.m., US Eastern time)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Allergy season

If this keeps up, I'm going to rename this blog "Red Eyes and Runny Nose"... (*sniff*)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A meme I can't resist...

(via Clancy at CultureCat)

For this, you go to Google and type "[your first name] needs"... I got the following:

Jonathan needs to be redeemed, or made completely evil. (They're both tempting...)

Jonathan needs to draw up a business plan to demonstrate to potential backers that his idea is a sound investment.

Jonathan needs to restructure his portfolio.

Jonathan needs to start drinking more beer.

Jonathan needs to leave.

Jonathan needs some help with healthy eating and exercise, so Kathleen casts his little Brother as an aide. (Well, I'll agree with the first part, but I don't have a little brother...)

Jonathan needs to stop by and do some landscaping. (OK, but only if you don't make me mow the lawn.)

Jonathan needs to have the sh*t beat out of him. (And I know who's willing to do it...)

Jonathan needs to refocus his life as well as his career. (That's almost as harsh as the previous one!)

Jonathan needs to be sent to La Paz for an electrocardiogram at an estimated cost of 1,650.00 pesos. (Can't I just do it at the Veteran's Hospital in town?)

What Jonathan needs is some kind of crash course in how to come to grips with what has become of his life. (Best advice so far...)

Jonathan needs to be a man and own up to his own mistakes. (Maybe that's what the crash course would teach me?)

Jonathan needs to learn the definition of a "clean lead."

Jonathan needs to find a pit filled with punji sticks. (And to learn the definition of "punji sticks"...)

Jonathan needs a punch in the face...seriously. (What is it with these people?)

Jonathan needs to be struck down hard because of his actions. (Ouch!)

Jonathan needs some love cuz he's been spurned by an unfeeling Hollywood. (Especially if they're the folks beating the sh*t out of me, punching me in the face, and striking me down hard...)

And finally...

jonathan needs his beauty sleep. (Amen!)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Watch that language...

From today's Liberty Times (自由電子報) comes the story of PHILIP (his name is in all caps throughout the article), a British businessman who got accused by a former employee of "publicly insulting" (公然侮辱) the employee by using the F-word (also all caps--maybe he was shouting) at a meeting. Fortunately for PHILIP, the judge in Taipei declared him not guilty because PHILIP had used the word to describe the employee's watch (the employee was 20 minutes late) and not the employee. Meanwhile, a guard at an apartment building was fined NT$1500 for using the Chinese version of F--K because the court decided he had used it to insult the other party directly. So if you're going to use the word, be careful how you use it!

Al Gore on democracy, the media, and public discourse

Al Gore spoke on Oct. 5 about the "grave danger" that public discourse in the U.S. is in. The transcript is available here.

[Update: Rebecca MacKinnon summarizes Gore's speech.]

Monday, October 03, 2005

Discussion about rhetoric and the humanities at the Blogora

The Blogora, a rhetoric blog that doesn't often seem to contain posts about rhetoric (at least as far as I can tell), has an interesting post by James Aune where he tosses around some of his views about the relationship of rhetoric to the humanities and social sciences. He has already received two comments, and hopefully will get more feedback for the position paper he's working on. I'm looking forward to seeing what he finally comes up with.

(By the way, I registered for an account--who knows, one of these days I might be brave enough to post a comment there--and was pleasantly surprised to receive my password in the form of an e-mail from the "World Wide Web Owner". Glad to see the ol' owner of the Web is keeping busy sending out passwords to ordinary folks like me...)

Word verification activated

What Rank said. Except as a rhetorician, I'd like to see some words like "bdelygmia", "insinuatio", or "verborum bombus"...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Big autumn typhoon on its way...

Its name is "Longwang" (龍王) or "Dragon King" and it's got a big ol' dragon eye... It looks like it will be affecting us tomorrow and possibly Monday (which might mean no classes Monday?...)

(picture from the Central Weather Bureau website)

[Update, Oct. 5: Longwang passed through quickly and hardly left any rain in the Taichung area. We had classes on Monday, much to my FENM students' dismay. (We had a quiz that day.)]