Friday, January 21, 2011

Everything happens for a reason

During a bit of comment banter the other day, I happened to recall one of the funniest lines of Chinglish I have ever encountered (well, really just a slip of spelling - but I think most native speakers would have caught it, because of the drastic difference it makes to the meaning).  I can't believe I haven't used it on the blogs before, but.... well, I've done a thorough search and I can't find any trace of it.

One of the training companies I used to be involved with had a contract for grading recruitment exams for a couple of the major international accounting firms (they do a huge trawl through the Beijing universities once or twice a year, and thousands of hopeful candidates apply: the majority of them, amazingly, with negligible English skills and severely challenged even in the field of basic numeracy - which are, funnily enough, the two major requirements).  It was mind-buggeringly tedious work, but if you could keep up a brisk enough tempo - I think we used to aim to get through 15-20 scripts an hour - it was modestly well paid; and there was additional compensation in the occasional gems of Chinglish which would produce moments of rib-tickling hilarity (sometimes, indeed, of mass hysteria, since for the first couple of years we had to do the marking in the company's "office" - actually a friend's apartment, serving dual purpose - so there would be half a dozen or so of us working side by side; and all of us so hyped up that the smallest stifled giggle or hiccup of suppressed mirth would almost invariably prove contagious).

One enduring favourite of mine was a girl who wrote, of her attitude to teamwork, "I will cooperate with my colleagues if necessary."  I felt I could 'hear' her italicized exasperation even in her plain handwritten script.  It's an attitude I have a lot of sympathy with!

Even better, though, was the candidate who, when challenged to make suggestions for improving workplace morale, ventured the idea of introducing a causal Friday.

Oh yes - that is an idea which is long overdue in China!  Let's all practice doing things for a good reason - just for one day of the week.  Little by little, baby steps - can't rush these things!  (Remember when they had a 'Stand In Line' Day campaign prior to the Olympics, to try to encourage civilized queueing at bus stops?  I envisage the same kind of thing in offices throughout the country - government offices, especially - just on Fridays.  Every other day, working practices can continue to be just as inefficient, opaque and illogical as ever; but on this one day, let a glimmer of light shine.)


JES said...

Ha! When I read that in the comment thread, I was just skimming -- and did a little head-snap action. Couldn't imagine what such a thing would be like.

I believe we're all surrounded by purposeless activity, worldwide. Maybe the UN will have to sponsor Causal Fridays.

Froog said...

Yes, perhaps we should have a World 'Not Without Reason' Day - Start Making Sense!