There are two thoughts about how English fits in India. One holds that it is a foreign language; the other claims that it is an Indian language. In her book Vernacular English: Reading the Anglophone in Postcolonial India, Akshya Saxena takes English out of this Indian/foreign binary and argues that it should be seen on the spectrum of its usage in India. At one end of this spectrum is its use by the state (in official documents and even in election slogans). At the other end is the use of English in protests against the state.
Tens of thousands of characters. Countless homonyms. Mutually unintelligible dialects across an entire country. This is what faced the Chinese thinkers, inventors and technicians who had to figure out how to standardize, translate, and adapt the Chinese language for a new country, and for new technologies.
It is an accident of history that most information technology, from Morse Code to the Internet, was developed in and for English-speaking countries. English, with just 26 letters and no accents or diacritical marks, means that everything from keyboards to displays to internal character codings are simple, deceptively so, because almost no other language makes life that easy. As a result, developers adopted solutions which have bedeviled information technology in other languages ever since. If developers are being honest, they would probably admit that solutions for languages from French and Russian to Arabic and Thai are (to use the technical term) kludged-up versions of products first designed for English.
Polly Barton is a Japanese-English translator with an extraordinary output, including three novel-length projects published in English translation in the last eighteen months. Fifty Sounds is her memoir, chronicling her year teaching English on Japan’s remote Sado Island and the way it changed the trajectory of her life.
Many years ago, before international direct dial, two young telephone operators, a man in Zurich and a woman in Cairo, began to pass the milkman shift chatting together. They became friends, decided to meet, and married. The language of their courtship was French. This was the day when many international organisations, including the Global Postal Union that coordinated the national PTTs (Post, Telegram and Telegraph), considered French an official language.
Chinese Grammatology traces the origins, transmutations, and containment of this script revolution to provide a groundbreaking account of its formative effects on Chinese literature and culture, and lasting implications for the encounter between the alphabetic and nonalphabet worlds.