Friday, September 16, 2011

English Pronunciation Problems on Cantonese ESL learners

Cantonese phonological system characteristics make Cantonese ESL learners common to have English pronunciation problems. There are five main aspects in Cantonese and English phonological systems contributing to distinct phonological patterns appeared in Cantonese ESL learners English problems.

1. Substitution of Cantonese consonants to English

According to the English speech produced by the native Cantonese speaker, “Zoe” and “is” are pronounced as [soυi] and [is] instead of [zoI] and [IZ] respectively. [z] is substituted by [s] in Cantonese English probably because [z] is absent in Cantonese phonological system. We never say 小[siu] and 線[sin] in [ziu] and [zin].Besides, all fricatives are voiceless in speakers’ minds. (Hung, 2000, p.347) Since [s] and [z] have the same place of articulation (alveolar) and same manner (fricative) in English phonological system. So, speakers seldom realize the existence of [z]. Such cases also appear in speech sounds including pairs of [f][v] and [θ][f] in words of “of” [Λf] and “thinks” [θIηks] respectively.

2. Confusion between voiceless consonants

From the transcription of “because” [pIk z] by the speaker, it clearly differs from the actual pronunciation [bIk z] with [p] replacing [b]. Situation also happens when it comes to “English” [ ], speaker pronounces it as [ ] with [k] replacing [ ]. In addition, phonemes including /p/, /t/and /k/ are often incorrectly pronounced as [ph], [th] and [kh]. Speaker pronounces “speaking” [spikIη] in [sphkhIη]. The aspirated voiceless bilabial stop [ph] replaces unaspirated voiceless bilabial stop [p]. And aspirated voiceless velar stop [kh] also replaces unaspirated voiceless velar stop [k].

3. Shortening of long vowels to short vowels

Cantonese has no differences in the length of vowels. Long vowels are dropped in Cantonese English as it is difficult for non-native English learners to distinguish long and short vowels. For example, in the phonetic forms, “she” and “in” have long vowel [i] in Received Pronunciation, it is pronounced as short vowel as [I] in Cantonese English.

4. Confusion among vowels [ǽ], [e] and [ə]

Cantonese ESL learners usually find uneasy to distinguish differences among [ǽ], [e] and [ə] because only [e] and [ε] exist in Cantonese phonological system like地[dei6] and 耶[jε4]. For example, speakers will easily pronounce “accurate” [ǽkjərət] as [εkhuweI], “and”[ənd] as [εnd].

5. Deletion of final consonant (coda) or reduction of consonant clusters

Cantonese is a monosyllabic tonic language. Each syllable cannot contain more than one consonant onset. Therefore, ESL learners frequently pronounce wrongly. For the words “afraid’[əfred], it is treated as [afei] without the [r]. And for words consisting coda in syllable structure, speakers will also forgetfully omit it perhaps because of Cantonese monosyllabic structure, such as the words of “front”, it is treated as [fΛn] without [t] at the end. Sometimes, /l/ is deleted in the coda preceded by a central mid [ə] vowel because it is realized in Cantonese English as a velar glide [w] or diphthong [oυ], such as “people” [pipəl] is replaced by [phiphoυ].

Negotiation: Hong Kong Government and Walt Disney

On Oct 31, 1999, agreement between Hong Kong Government (HKG) and Walt Disney Company (WD) for the development at Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island of Hong Kong Disneyland (HKD), was reached. To maintain a long term relation for further cooperation likes construction of Phase II project and upon CEPA concord, these two parties have adopted Integrative Negotiation to achieve a mutually satisfactory plan. To analyze this situation with negotiation knowledge, we can go through three important aspects: (I) Characteristics (II) Signs of Win-Win Potential (III) Strategies being used.
(I) To begin with, there was a conflict of interest between HKG and WD. The dominant argument here was the investment and shareholdings. Then, both parties also wanted to gain from the settlement. While WD’s concern was chiefly the prospective profitability because HKD would be the gateway to China market, HKG’s desire was based on the social benefits, which would derive from tangible factors including additional spending by tourists and local residents, rising employment, supplementary employee training, as well as intangible factors covering international images and enriched quality of life. Next, the parties preferred to search for agreement. During repetitive negotiation at early stage in 1999, HKG and WD had come up with numerous consensus including site, financing, staffing, timing, future expansion and license. These tasks required two parties to offer and take concessions so as to achieve better deal in exploratory stage. Finally, these parties have modified their positions and each will move toward each other. As a matter of fact, the latest adjustment in Sep 30, 2008, WD helped HKG to pay the 33 billion debt and offered privileged loan interest at 2%.
(II) To commence with, the negotiation between HKG and WD involved different issues, ranging from economical to environmental. Variation of preferences, beliefs and capacities could therefore be profitably traded off to create joint gain. Also, seeing the unsatisfactory number of visitors, they negotiated options to resolve problems: (1) offer annual pass (2) strengthen festive promotion (3) arrange packaged tour for mainland tourists. Furthermore, they have different preferences across negotiation issues. (Please refer to Figure 1 and illustration in appendix)
(III) First, negotiations among HKG and WD had built trust and shared information. They kept the ongoing discussion with Executive Council, Legislative Council, WD Board and Tourism Commission etc and both had revealed their preferences and priorities. This facilitated the Win-Win outcome to be reached. Second, they focused on interests, not positions. (Please refer to Figure 2 and illustration in appendix) Third, parties had reconciled needs. For infrastructural construction, parties had splinted the scope into reclamation, road works, railway transport, sewage network, multi-purpose lake etc. The multi-issue negotiations enhanced the different priority setting and further trade-offs.
In conclusion, the negotiation of Disney’s establishment was basically successful. Nevertheless, by the time of 2010, WD will has announced detailed planning of Disney Theme park in Shanghai, where would be a great BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), for being the most essential source of bargaining power. HKG may be deprived of more advantage due to WD’s strong position. As WD with the more power may have little incentive to give up its advantage, the unequal bargaining power may eventually lead negotiation (e.g. Phase II construction) between two parties from Win-Win to Win-Lose.

Language and Gender in the Movie L’auberge Espagnole


L'auberge Espagnole (literally: The Spanish Apartment), is the story about a 25-year-old man, Xavier, who leaves France to further study Economics in a Spanish city, Barcelona. Following his arrival, he is soon thrust into a cultural melting pot when he moves into an apartment with different international students. An Italian, an English girl, a boy from Denmark, a young girl from Belgium, a German and a girl from Tarragona all join him in a series of cosmopolitan adventures and comic tribulations that serve as an initiation to life.

Characters are the soul in movies. Every word interlocutor brings and merely a simple facial expression they deliver can delicately represent every crucial communicative message the director of movie exactly wants to tell the audience. With the rich multi-cultural background in the movie of L’auberge espagnole, I am going to describe and analyze the overall motive among men and women conversational habits. Also, the cross-gender communication skills are discussed in a functional approach.

Intrepretation of Metamessage

Tannen Deborah, an expert of language and gender, suggests men and women interpret message differently. The underlying reason is that they decode hidden meaning of a message by sender base on cross-cultural communication. Here in the movie, since the departure of Xavier with Martine, his girlfriend in Paris, their separation stirs up conflicts frequently because how they perceive message is not the same.

Utterance Message Metamessage

Martine, ‘You just don’t wanna talk with me’ Martine assumes Xavier no longer wants to talk with her. She feels discontented of being ignored by Xavier and wants Xavier to understand her anger.
Xavier ‘No…there’re five people here. Let’s not argue. This is ridiculous! Xavier explains why he cannot chat so long on phone. He does not wish to further argue on phone with Martine.

Independence VS Intimacy

(1) Eye contact
According to Tannen’s research, she suggests at each age, female face each other and have a kind of direct gaze that they create. They keep looking at each other the whole time that they are talking to. For male, they look around the room rather than directly at each other in chatting. However, the theory is partially valid applied in this movie. In conversations between women, they mostly look at each other. More, for conversations between either man-to-man or man-to-woman, men still hold a constantly direct eye contact. It can be explained as an intercultural difference in face-to-face encounters. As in European and North American culture, they treat eye contact as a sign of honesty. Directly gazing each other represents politeness and trust to interlocutors.

(2) Body Alignment
Tannen also mentions female likes to align body face to face while male likes to align themselves either at angles or parallel, as for sign of intimacy and independence for women and men respectively. Here we can conclude the theory is quite applicable when observing different scenarios.

Public Talk VS Private Talk

Though all humans need both private and public talk, women tend to focus on the former and men on later. When Wendy’s brother come to Barcelona and spent a week living in the apartment, he is particularly interested in sharing his life in London with everyone whom he had not met before. However, when Anne, the wife from Xavier’s friend, is asked to tell Xavier how she falls in love with his husband, she feels embarrassed and thinks this private talk ought to take place between couple themselves yet not to any unfamiliar people. According to Tannen Deborah, this can be explained as men feel more comfortable to start a conversation among more participants in the dialogue. The less well men know the people, the higher status they can maintain in hierarchical social order. However, it is vice versa for women because the function of private talk is to establish connections and display similarities.

Difference VS Sameness

Men like to express their views unlike others to show their significant difference and women usually display sameness to match experiences. In the movie, when the girl newly moves to the apartment, she shares her experience of having the same stuff in the room with Xavier. Later, she asks Xavier if he also has the record from Ali Farka Toure or not. She intends to give a message of “We’re close and the same” and give Xavier a feeling that she is equally friendly to live with in this community. Another scene shows the exactly opposite view from men is when Xavier mentioning the beach. Xavier tells Martine he is going to visit a beach in Barcelona. Martine thinks he will go to the same beach as before, even she hears a different beach name. Xavier insists the one he is going to is “different” and is “another”. He also interprets that Martine is trying to render his own experience insignificant. In fact, the way he strongly emphasizes the “difference” means he wants to maintain the uniqueness of his happening.

Problem-solving VS Understanding

When Martine expresses her anger of Xavier’s broken promise, Xavier offers a solution of taking a cheaper flight. His takes the role of problem-solver at that moment to reassure Martine does not feel that bad. However, what Martine expects is the understanding from her boyfriend instead of advice.

Xavier: Hello, my love.
Martine: You said you’d come! Fuck!
Xavier: No wait, uh…I don’t have the money. I’m sorry. I’m broke…How about if you come here first? Take a cheaper flight, is it ok?
Martine: I was broke too! But I still managed to come…You don’t give a damn!
Xavier: I do give a damn!
Martine: No, you don’t! You make promises, blow them off…And for my birthday, it’s disgusting! You don’t understand me!


Analyzing deeply into the movie L’auberge Espagnole, I find language, culture and communication these three vital elements are closely related across male-female interaction. When women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy, while men speak and hear a language of status and independence, then communication between these two genders takes place cross-culturally in terms of the four main aspects discussed. However misunderstandings arise because of different style in communication, I believe the key of understanding certainly prior to merely learning through the differences in conversations because we need to build the rapport to sustain a harmonious dialogue box instead of criticisms and dissatisfactions.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Explore the Hidden Kaleidoscope beyond Skyscrapers – SoHo

To many city dwellers in Hong Kong, Central SoHo district is always a charming place. What this kaleidoscope showcases us is not only the diverse environment encompassing from restaurants to bars, and from art galleries to aromatherapies, but a lively juxtaposition between old and new layers, which crafts the unique South of Hollywood road. In this report, as a flâneur, standing for anyone who wanders and watches the city, I will bring you a deeper insight of SoHo in three folds including 1) the demographic features 2) the influential transport leading to this zone and 3) merchandise categories for the nearby goods/services/entertainment.

The Demographic Features

Hong Kong is famous for its multicultural background as evidenced by the various mix of ethnicities. People inject their ideas, culture and lifestyle into this dazzling city and shape the neighborhoods crowdedly, yet lively. In daytime, SoHo is a relaxed neighborhood for tourists hanging around antique shops, visiting nearby Man Mo Temple, or tasting Chinese cuisines. In noon, it also serves as buzzing zone for Central white-collars to consumer their quick lunch. However, at night, particularly in every happy Friday, here lights up and turns to a completely different neon sidewalk, for everybody to enjoy themselves. Backpackers, artists, bankers, architects all gather here to mingle and mix new people.

With the open-air bars lining the streets, SoHo welcomes all kind of people kicking it. What a flâneur can observe here is that the major population seems to be occupied by foreigners, better-off groups, and people who can master sounded English. To them, the westernized atmosphere is conducive for them to mingle and experience city life. Along the hilly streets, people fill the clubs and restaurants, and sometimes spill out onto the sidewalks or casually chat on the floor. In addition, this place is also attracted by white-collars who used to have stressful office work during daytime. During my last site investigation on Friday, it also comes to my surprise to coincidently meet my friend who is now working as a financial analyst. She is like anyone here to come for fun, and relax.
The Influential Transport in This Zone

Despite the labyrinth of streets that make up the area, it is easily accessible via the Mid-Levels Escalator as the lifeblood to connect anywhere. The renowned longest outdoor escalator in world records has been the best icon of this bustling city to many photographers and journalists. What captivates their eyeballs is not only the Hong Kong’s hilly geographical location, but also the rich culture they can explore in every corner alongside Shelley Street. Nestled in between the two main streets, Staunton and Elgin, Shelley Street under the elongated escalator serves as a buffer zone crossing old and new faces. From selling herbal tea, porcelain, print in downstairs, to having Italian restaurants, African lounges, Mexican Tacos in upstairs, it is obviously mirroring the Hong Kong’s true face of “East meets West”.

The “moving up and down” walking next to the escalator perhaps is a regular exercise to locals going home. Moreover, it is also the best movements to many affluent people to escape themselves from investment banks, accounting firms in Central. Patrons can excurse nearby side streets and alleyways by freely having a glimpse in different angles. They can closely see the big red Cantonese lanterns decorated in a western bar during Lunar New Year, smell the pizza from an Italian restaurant, or listen to the jazz music in lounges (but not such blasting in their ears from Lan Kwai Fong clubs), or taste the fine wine in cafes. The Mid-levels escalator is a place so vibrant for visitors to discover the history.

Merchandise Categories

The retails and services found in SoHo region are multifarious, primarily ranging from cuisines, bars, art houses, antiques shops, bookshops to boutiques.

Foods and Drinks

In this reputable Food Paradise, there are a variety of restaurants and bars visitors can choose. Majority of customers the eating places target would be the more affluent people, white-collars and tourists, who have the knowledge about food cultures and are affordable for the minimum expense at $150 per head. In many restaurants, the waiters/waitresses would greet their customers in English, or offer the menu only in English. There might seem to be a bit culturally-biased in the Chinese neighborhoods, but that reflects the business strategy entrepreneurs apply to promote their restaurants as more westernized or traditionally house-made
Galleries and Boutiques

What enlighten the SoHo a strong artistic atmosphere are the art houses nearby Hollywood Road and Aberdeen Street, featuring different styles of artwork. This friendly community attracts a diverse crowd, whether they’re collectors, students or artists. It is not surprising whenever people solely appreciating the pieces, which cost at least thousands in average, but not buying. It is because to many gallery owners, upholding the mission of “interaction between the art piece and visitors” is probably prior to selling their art piece. What they value is the life of art, rather than the price it can sell.

Besides galleries, most fashions and accessories sold in SoHo boutiques are originally local designed. However ladies wears dominating the whole aisles, they are sophisticated, creative and exclusive. For example, there is one shop selling organic fabric, and another selling Indian Bollywood fashion. Usually, women pedestrians are easily caught the attention due to displayed clothes, windows and fine interior designs. As what flâneurs observe, the ultimate buyers are always the high-end and fashionable ladies, aged above 30s and are willing to purchase one item at least priced at $500.

To conclude, the contrast between the past and present enriches the SoHo area. The unique landscape gives tourists and Central workaholics great adventures. The successful development here can be ascribed to the escalator as chief transport. As the lifeblood to connect different individuals and communities, the escalator facilitates “mingle and mix” social activity, brings the promising profits, and also promotes the multicultural interfaces across ethnicities and social backgrounds.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is fantasy literature often dismissed as ‘escapist fluff’?

Fantasy literature has the capacity to affect one’s beliefs, one’s way of viewing life, one’s hope, and one’s faith. When the vision in art the writers of fantasy incarnated, the sense of imagination with their own psyche will soon become the outer world of the readers. In my opinion, it is true that fantasy literature is often dismissed as “escapist fluff”, where allows readers leaving our world for a fictive one. However, I would also add that the fantasy implicitly projects primitive man’s emotional impulses, leading readers to actualize themselves into a keener self-understanding in reality. Thus, in fantasy there is always reciprocating action to interchange between two worlds.

Horizon of Expectation
Fantasy literature is an escapist fluff because the art pieces usually embody a fantasy of power and control with the surrounding environment. The story, common characters, evocation of another world, use of magic and the supernatural, a clear sense of good and evil, and the quest, all represent the traits which must be presented in fantasy with otherness across fuzzy or nonexistent boundaries. At such, the created story seeks to free from imagination and allows readers to establish their horizon of expectations in another world.

Touch Our Spiritual Nature
The immersive fantasy is among all fantasy stories the most appropriate genre to distinct itself as separated from and unconnected to our real world. Authors establishes it not only as an “alien geography” by its setting and magical elements, but also cultures and customs that go with each island, which contribute to a sense of a very different world from ours. Tolkien’s Hobbit with the development of Middle Earth presents us with wizard, powerful ring, as well as various creatures ranging from the main character, his dwarf companions to giant spiders, and even a dragon. Characters in fantasy often have powerful mental and spiritual struggles. While the readers are tumbling through the enchantment of this supernatural experience, the story meanwhile allows them to revitalize their perspective, to recover beclouded by knowledge, and more importantly, to realize the importance of their spiritual nature.

Connect From One Reality to Another
It is commonplace that some fantasy conceptualizes the dream visions and “doorways” to interchange two portals. The dream does not only function as dream but a portal into the otherworld of the dreamstate. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a prime example. Not only does it have the portal in a physical form (the rabbit hole), but it also includes the psychological notion of dreaming as portal. Contrasted with the dreamstate in Carroll’s story, entrance into Lewis’s Narnia is typically achieved through the means of another kind of portal. In the book of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the portal is the wardrobe in the spare room. The curiosity of both two characters described in this story, Alice and Lucy, successfully arouse their interest to seek an adventurous journey in the dreamstate. By designing this kind of story plot, the writers can build a stronger resonance between readers and characters in story to follow the fantasy.

It is right to say that imaginative concepts, or even magical beings and creatures in fantasy literature bring readers through into the fantastic. This escapist wish of passing through a transformation relies on readers to enslave a role so that they move outward to grasp and possess their religious, sexual or philosophical desire to fulfill their need. Magical powers are of crucial significance in fantasy. However, the elements upon fantasy, after all, correspond to every aspect of our subjective experience of reality other than escapist fluff. Therefore, if fantasy begins in another world, it is also another world for us to actualize, to self-understand, to reach out our human soul in reality.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Antonia's Fantasy Story

The FantAsia and the Underworld

Siu Mui the child labour at a toy factory and her three cockroaches and Teddy Bear are best friends. They share the bittersweet memory together in this underworld. Every day, Siu Mui sits on the assembling bench until midnight to produce the toys for the FantAsia Park.

One day, while the cockroaches are having party, the factory is suddenly out of control. Siu Mui and her little things are sent to the FantAsia Park and meet a courageous acrobat in the Cirque du Fantasie, Kent. How will they have an adventure in the park and make a difference for Siu Mui?

This inspiring story from an English for Professional Communication student will have you believing in the magic of justice, dream and friendship.


It was a bright summer in the Merveilleux Island Resort, the world most luxury holiday paradise. Every year, Macy and her family had their summer vacation here. They used to live in this riverside cottage, play the paddle boat, and dine in the best restaurant nearby the pool.

“Teddy bear you are so fluffy and cute. I will take care of you” Macy said ecstatically. She saw the teddy bear in the restaurant and picked it. The teddy bear was a round, fat little soft toy, with a scar on its right ear, and a yellow bow tie decorated. It was once the classic icon of FantAsia Park in the golden ages across the 40s to 90s. However, it was closed down few years ago because of its notorious reputation. The original site was now renovated into the Merveilleux Island Resort.

“Good night sweetie. We are going to the Dreamy Circus show tomorrow.” Mother said nearby Macy’s pillow. “Yes Mommy Daddy! Good night!”

Everybody was sleeping well and Macy’s daddy was sniffing loudly. Suddenly, the Teddy Bear was awakened. He was slightly rubbing against his little drowsy eyes. “Oh! Where am I? Who’s the girl next to me? WHERE ARE MY FRIENDS?” Teddy astonished, keeping his head wagging and finding his friends.

Teddy wanted to climb onto the windowsill to see where he was. So he promptly slipped away from Macy’s arm and jumped on the couch. He touched the window frame and quietly sits on the windowsill. He gazed around this room. The Italian queen-sized bed, Persian rug, Picasso drawings, white-musk fragrance, and all the décor sounded very unfamiliar for him of living in a toy factory franchised by the FantAsia many years ago. Teddy looked upon the sky and suddenly missed a distant friend deeply in heart - Siu Mui, his best friend in the factory few years ago.

At the first time Teddy met Siu Mui, she had a worn-out face. However poorly educated, compared with other kids in the same age, Siu Mui was extraordinarily hardworking and mature. In her age of 14, she left her rural home. She decided to work in city where she thought she could get a good job and good paid to support her grandfather, parents, and two younger brothers.

Since then, she started her “new life” in an underworld – a franchised toy factory to produce soft toys routinely, almost 7/24/365.

Teddy was among all the FantAsia Teddy Bears the flawed minority for there was an oily blemish spilled by chemical substance on its right ear. The quality control officer put Teddy aside and was ready to throw it into a big trash bin.The FantAsia never sold their souvenirs with a minor mistake. FantAsia was a perfect world. They aimed at 100% perfection. Teddy had once thought of himself to be abandoned until he was picked up by Siu Mui.

“Hello, poor bear. Can I call you Teddy?” Siu Mui whispered. “Yes. My name is Teddy,” Teddy nodded and said. “Can we be friend?”

Then they started their friendship.

The factory has long been the home of Teddy, Siu Mui and her friends – Chipsy, Brownie and Choco, the three giant thumb-sized cockroaches. They lived nearby the assembling benches. When Siu Mui was sewing the toys, the three cockroaches would have gossips all the time or dancing party with other cockroaches to awaken Siu Mui. They liked Siu Mui and Teddy very much.

Sometimes, they would have hide-and-seek with the rats near the pipelines – their running track; the fans – their marry-go-round; and the slippery floor – their skating rink. Every Friday when officers left the factory early, they would have party in their favorite “haunted house” – the operation room with spider web covering the installed surveillance cameras and the excellent lighting effect. Gloomy and dim.

“Hey Siu Mui it’s already 1 a.m.! Let’s eat something! That DUMB has left us his WHOLE DINNER in the room!” Brownie shouted excitedly.

“You mean the man from Quality Control? asked Chipsy.
“Yes! Yes! It’s he!” Brownie said.
“Nooo-Nooo-Nooo. You stupid dummy fatty cockroach. The dinner is NOT for us! It is JUST his snacks or appetizers. He is now enjoying the X’mas banquet! He’s never that generous to give us food!” Exclaimed by Chipsy.
“No wonder he can leave the factory so early tonight.” Said Choco.

“Hey my little things, are you hungry? Take my bread here. I can’t play with you tonight. I need to stay up till very late,” Siu Mui comforted the cockroaches and slightly shivered her body in the windy night. “Well…Christmas is coming. We need to finish this order by tomorrow’s morning.”

“Siu Mui. You can do it.” She muttered and encouraged herself optimistically.
“I want to stay with you. Can I?” said Teddy and smiled.
“Sure, you little Teddy.”

That night was particularly busy yet silent. Every worker was seriously in hurry to assemble the components and put the Christmas outlook on the five hundred FantAsia Teddy Bears. Scottish scarf, fury boots and little glittering hand bell.

Tic-Tac-Tic-Tac. It was 2 a.m. now. The toys were still not yet completed. But the workers decided to go back to dormitory except Siu Mui alone to insist on continuing her work.
“This factory was really like a hell…Luckily we have you to help us, Siu Mui! Hey, don’t go back to dormitory too late. We still have to work tomorrow.” The workers said.

Siu Mui was counting the finished Teddy Bears in the shabby place. “Four hundred and one…four hundred and two…four hundred and three…four hundred and four… five hundred… and…” She dozed off a moment and finally couldn’t help falling asleep on the desk.

Meanwhile, the cockroaches and rats were still having party in the operation room. They sang the “Friday Night Fever” and danced joyfully. Brownie was standing on top of the system keyboard pad and carelessly kicked the red button. Suddenly, the factory’s speakers were on air and made the announcement loudly.

“Attention Please. Attention Please. The truck is going to be arrived in 5 minutes – arrived in 5 minutes. Please mind the platform gap. Please mind the platform gap.”
“Silly Brownie! WHAT’S GOING ON? What sort of button did you click?” Chipsy asked furiously.
“I…I…don’t…don’t know…I meant no harm!” Brownie cried and looked innocently.
“Take it easy. Perhaps there’s the show time NEXT!” Choco shouted in excitement.

The lights in factory were all switched on. Machines started to upload packaged Fantasia Teddy Bears. The delivery belt rolled frontward speedily. The whole factory was out of control!

The three cockroaches galloped away downstairs and shouted, “Siu Mui! Wake up! Wake up! Let’s go to have fun!”
Teddy curiously asked, “Hey! Where are we going? I need to stay with Siu Mui! She looks very tired!”
“No more time! Sit on the belt first!” Commanded Chipsy
“Get on the ride? Cool!” Choco laughed.
“Where…where can I fasten the safety belt?” asked Brownie.
“You STUPID Brownie! Sit on the delivery belt but not fasten the belt!” Said the two cockroaches.

They passed all the assembling check points and were mysteriously approaching the trap door. Siu Mui, Teddy and the three cockroaches looked upon the signal ahead and read a line. “No Admittance Except On Contingent Mission In Park. What does that mean?” Asked Siu Mui. “O! Here We Go – The FantAsia Park!” Shouted Teddy.

After passing through a tunnel in dark, it finally came out into the open air. Siu Mui, Teddy and the cockroaches were very glad. They looked around in wonder.
“This must be the FantAsia Park!”
“Look at all those beautiful castles! Arh…and the biggest circus ring – The Cirque du Fantasie!” said the cockroaches.

While they were at the entrance, they met a well-dressed decent soldier. The cockroaches and Teddy quickly crawled into Siu Mui’s handbag.
The soldier gave them a notice, “Welcome to the FantAsia Park, Miss. Here’re the reminders you need to follow. In the park, first, you are not allowed to bring any foods and beverages. Second, you are also not allowed to talk to our acrobats, trained animals, musicians, stunt artists from the Cirque du Fantasie.”
“He-is-so-mean-and-bossy!” said the three cockroaches and Teddy.

“One more thing. We don’t welcome any animals. Thank you for your cooperation.” The soldier added politely.
The little things shut up immediately and soundlessly peeped outside. They were staring at the soldier.
“I wonder why they command their visitors in this way.” Siu Mui told Teddy and cockroaches silently.

“Hey look at the higgledy-piggledy cottages over there!” Teddy teased.
“And what a crowd of different kinds of fairy-folk!” Chipsy laughed.
“Oh! Teddy! Your face is printed everywhere in the souvenir shops! You’re the idol like a super star among the kids!” Shouted Brownie.
“I DON’T CARE. All the toys are only cheap products in our factory. Right?” Said Teddy in the handbag.
“I agree. But the workers have no choice. Come on! C’est la vie.” Said Siu Mui.

Siu Mui pointed to the big circus ring on a steep hill. She was curious to look inside.
Then they took the path that led to the ring. It was not long before they were climbing the hill on which the ring stood. They came to a great gate titled as “Restricted Area”, and by it hung a bellrope.

“Be careful!” the cockroaches said in a whisper. Siu Mui pulled it and at once a jangling noise was heard in the courtyard beyond. The gate swung open and Siu Mui went in, feeling a little bit frightened.

The circus would only perform in night. In the day time, there was no one in the courtyard. Exactly opposite was a door, which stood open. The cockroach buddies and Teddy jumped out from the handbag. They went towards it and peeped inside. Just as they got there they heard some nice music.

“An acrobat is here! Let’s go in!”
They crept inside the door and found themselves in a huge gorgeous tent. At the middle there was a raised stage on which stood the acrobat having training.

He was muscular and looked particularly sophisticated. He climbed the fabric without the use of safety lines. And he started to slowly wrap and swing and spiral his bodies into his position. Siu Mui was amazed that he attempted to fly through the air, striking another pose while flying with the brisk rhythms and soft melody.

Not long after, the acrobat spotted out the shadow of Siu Mui. Suddenly, he slid down from the top.
“Who are you?” Asked the acrobat with frown.
“I’m Siu Mui. I just pass by here…Am I disturbing you?”
“No, I’m just exercising. You are my first audience today. I’m Kent. Nice to meet you. Have you ever watched our show before?” Asked Kent.
“Well… Sorry... It’s my first time to be here… I can’t…a…afford the ticket…” She replied with a bit embarrassment.
“Oh it doesn’t matter. What do you do? Are you a student?” Kent could observe that Siu Mui was not too old.
“No. I work in a factory. The FantAsia’s franchised one. We produce toys for this park,” Siu Mui took out Teddy from her handbag and said. “See? That’s the Teddy Bear we made. Teddy is my best friend. Of course, and these three cockroaches as well – Chipsy, Brownie and, Choco! These little things were always my best buddies!”

She smiled and kissed them one by one. Teddy and the cockroaches jutted out their heads from the handbag. Kent was scared at the moment. But then he slowly gazed at the thumb-sized things. The little things took a look at Kent and shook his fingers sincerely.
“Hi! How’re you?” the cockroaches greeted Kent.
Kent saw Siu Mui’s hands with wrinkles and scars. And he found her very pale in face. He noticed that she might overwork in the factory. Indeed, Siu Mui had soaked too much chemical substance in the factory over the years.

“How about you? What did you do?” Siu Mui asked.
“Well...A long history it is. I’ve worked here for eight years. I’m a full time acrobat. Huh…you know…the training is extremely tough and exhausting. We usually get injured when juggling fire torches or even knifes. Insurance is not covered. And sick leave barely allowed.”

Kent sighed deeply. His eyes were miserable. Seems that he had lost his freedom since the day he was trapped into this dazzling circus ring.
“How poor he is…” Said the cockroaches.

“But why do you still work in here?”
“This is my life. I was born in a musician’s family. My parents are both the elite musicians in provincial opera and orchestra teams. But I’m the opposite of them. I like acrobatics and gymnastics arts. That’s why I leave my home to work in here – the world renowned Cirque du Fantasie.”

Despite having physical pain, he didn’t give up his career. He loved to be an acrobat. He believed the tent was somewhere he belonged. It was the only place he could make the dream came true.

They chatted a lot on the stage. Kent felt glad to talk with Siu Mui as they shared similar story and he found Siu Mui a very tough girl. However, he also felt pity to her. He recognized she should have her dream rather than staying in the stuffy factory. He didn’t want her to suffer from the toxic substance anymore.

So he determined to act out a secret mission that saved Siu Mui from the underworld. Then he discussed his plan with Chipsy, Brownie and Choco secretly at the courtyard while Siu Mui was bringing Teddy to visit the castles. She didn’t realize her little three had slipped away.

“Shuh! Don’t tell Siu Mui! Or else she would use the cockroaches- repellent spray!” said Choco.
“Spray? For what?” asked silly Brownie.
“TO KILL US! UNDERSTAND?” Choco said angrily.

Clever Chipsy went out to discuss with other cockroaches. More and more cockroaches originally hided in the kiosks, washrooms, bakery shops, trash bins, or anywhere in the park suddenly gathered on the steep hill. There were over thousands of cockroaches ready to embark on their top mission – To Attack The FantAsia Theme Park!

Chipsy, Brownie and Choco headed the cockroaches and divided them into different teams. They stationed at the entrance, main street, Circus, casltes, cafeteria etc.
“Ready! Set! GO!” Chipsy ordered and all the cockroaches rushed into their stationing points to horrify the visitors. “COCKROACHES! GET OUT! GET OUT! OUT-OUT-OUT!” “NO! NO! NO! WE’LL NEVER COME AGAIN!” the tourists screamed and yelled and complained.

The cockroaches crowded were getting more fiercely towards the visitors. They meant not to panic the tourists. They only wished the park’s reputation to be worse so that nobody would come again. The park was disorder and completely out of control now. The queues of visitors were escaping at high speed. Unfortunately, Teddy and the three cockroaches were lost in the chaos.

After the two days-battle, the cockroaches had a string of victory. The mission was completely successfully! Every newspaper and magazine carried an entire coverage on “FantAsia’s Collapse”, “FantAsia Greatest Hit by Cockroach”, “FantAsia – No More Perfection” as headlines.

During the year, the park received less than ten visitors coming every day. The following year, the Chief Executive Officer of the park had no choice, but to announce the theme park and the franchised toys factory to be closed. The FantAsia was then taken over by the Merveilleux Island Resort, the world-class high-end holiday paradise.

However the Cirque du Fantasie was dismissed, all the performers worked together in another circus called Dreamy Circus that Kent became the Director and Siu Mui the successful tamer.

She still liked animals a lot. And she missed Teddy, Chipsy, Brownie and Choco, which they shared laughter in every midnight, and finally make her dream came true.

“I’m proud of you all. God bless you. Little things.” she prayed.


Antonia Cheong Hoi Kiu came up with the idea for The FantAsia and the Underworld because she read many news about women workers and child labors at toy and garment factories in the developing countries. She says, “Why don’t I illustrate this crucial social issue into the story so that more people can be aware of the basic human right of the needies.”

She thought, “What if I empower the character of little animals in the factory to describe how poor the working environment is?” And the whole idea came just at that moment – that three lovely cockroaches and a Teddy Bear were the worker’s best friends in this underworld.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Investigation #12 Reflection and Retrospective

Throughout the 8 investigations conducted about library, I have gained an analytical mind in exploring how linguistic work can provide a full account of language as a social practice. In a micro level, I recognize the identity claimed by library users and a consistent social practices performed besides borrowing books alone. By closely observing the discourse, soon, I attempt to use Mediated Discourse Analysis to correlate the actions with practices performed by different participants. Also, I am much inspired by applying Hyme’s SPEAKING model to closely look into the structure of a speech event, and Textual Analysis to focus on how the text is produced and draw influence on users.

In a macro level, analysis of Politeness, Interaction and Social Identity, as well as Discourse and Power, also provides me a critical review of the framework used to situate discourse in a broader context of social relations. I also find some ideological change induced by the linguistics production and interpretation. In general, the investigation works allow me to acutely observe ‘Discourse’. Literally, it is far more than just “language in use”.

In my discourse site, library incorporates various language uses, as many forms of social practice. From speech interaction between librarian and borrowers during library book check-out at circulation counter, as well as textual interaction between library and users based on written pamphlets, leaflets and guidelines, all communication treated as social practices has revealed that the discourse is a mode of action to allow people acting upon the world, and specially act upon each other. In addition, not only do people manipulate the discourse existed in spoken, written, or multimodal texts, the discourse itself also shapes human’s ideology by membership, actions, context and social cognition. It is important to understand that people in library setting frequently adopt the genre in between of institutional and governmental. All regulations and guidelines introduced by library administrative party and front staff librarian, can govern the library users’ ability to recognize how they perceive their identity, when they should engage in the actions, what they can do with, and where they take the actions inside the library.

As mentioned in the first investigation, due to the fact that library primarily conducts communication in written instead of spoken form, people might conceptualize meanings in different ways even though they share the same textual pattern. For example, when we read every lines of instructions about ACCESSING FREE GOV WI-FI INTERNET, due to individual comprehensive capability or complicated word meanings, people might still be unable to access to the internet. Therefore, it is suggested that library can make use of the multimodal discourse. Take accessing internet as the example, by showing analytical image on posters (describing every steps clearly), people can clearly understand the sequential actions in a more timeless way. Also, the design could draw the readers’ attention from the reader more effectively if the overall design such as text alignment, labels, captions and explanation can be clearly presented.