In many cultures around the world, art is often an imitation of the daily lives or activities. Writing as a form of art allows individuals to relate with their cultures or create imaginations of a new culture. McCool (2009) mentioned that most authors have a belief that the audience will be pulled towards their thoughts, assumptions and perceptions if a language of the context of the writing content is used. Additionally, De (2011) outlined that a writer writes in a language that reflects their basis of imagination and creativity. However, in the recent past, Mackey (2015) presented that there has emerged a strong debate on whether the emergence of translanguaging under the field of bi-lingual has had any negative or positive impact to the objectives and goals of writers expressing their ideologies away from the aspect of their main culture or target audience’s culture. A good platform to examine the utilization of bilingual concepts and how they impact academic writing across cultures (issues and practices) is “The English of My Story” by Xu Xi.
Xu Xi’s article examines the writer’s need, challenges and accomplishments of using the first language and the second language, through the bilingual concept. Rama & Frye (2012) pointed out that there would be the expectation that a writer would face huge challenge communicating or writing in their second language. Xu Xi first language is English, while her second language is Chinese. With the above information, I am of the opinion that Xu Xi’s article main objective was illustrating that despite having good writing skills in the first language; there is need for legitimacy of her use of second language in her illustrations of competence in bilingual writing. I believe the article underlying goal plays an important role of understanding the writer’s motivation to use the two languages. Flood et al. (2003) proposed the tools of bilingual concepts, translanguaging capacities, multicultural competence and self translation as the ideal parameters of understating the motivation of writing across cultures. Under the tools proposed by Flood et al. (2003) the audience can understand the motivation behind Xu Xi approach and call for legitimacy of “Hong Kong English” article. Xu Xi’s article illustration of bilingual concepts, translanguaging capacities, multicultural competence and self translation in creating writing that audiences can relate to justifies her call for legitimacy of writing across cultures.
Writing Competencies Concepts
Examination of the bilingual concepts can lead to the identification of target audience and the need to use varied language for diverse experiences. The above examination assumptions are made on the basis of Purves (1988) and Wright (2015) argument that most writers using bilingual writing, tend to do so in order to belittle one language. Brown (1993) and Phan & Baurain (2011) had also argued that there lies a huge difference between a writer possessing a language and a writer being possessed by a language. To examine the above, there will be need to scrutinize if there are instances where Xu Xi illustrates being possessed by any of the two languages she chooses to use or life experiences that requires use of specific language to create more sense to the writing.
Writing is quite demanding especially when it comes to the need to consider the right words to use in order to appeal to the interests of the audience. Gulden (2013) pointed out that different aspects or cultural activities would require the specific cultural language in order not to alter the author meaning of the experiences. In Xu Xi’s article, there are several instances that act as an indicators and justification for the need to express in bilingual concepts. For example Xu Xi presents that “we were asked to write approximately a page and a half in class. I would often write three pages, and by the time the bell rang, could easily have kept going”. In the above sentence, Xu Xi considers how as a Chinese she hoped to express herself more because traditional Chinese stories were episodic and differed with the English versions of tragedy and comedy. At this point, I believe Xu Xi was calling for the justification of writing across cultures and abolishing the standard modes of English based evaluation of a good composition being the length of a one and a half page.
The above justification consideration is related to the class reading of correctness and variations in writing. For example, in the English writing, a one and half page would have been enough according to the standards of evaluation. However, when a person from another culture is expressing themselves, I suppose that one and half page perhaps would not be enough for the person to fully express themselves due to what Gulden (2013) referred to as non existence of single standard for ‘good writing’. More so, Hicks (1999) noted that deviation and diversity have emerged the ‘norm’ in English writing under the new paradigm, where content depth and content context may be evaluated differently.
Xu Xi tries to justify that different aspects of life require different languages by considering that “ in trying to find the right voice for my kind of fiction, the notion that multiple Englishes exist as legitimate (or at least recognized) forms of the language is useful”. In the above line Xu Xi is explaining that the efficient and reliable voice to relay her type of fiction, which may vary as per the expectation of the audience and can only be made possible by accepting the legitimacy of the existence of multiple “Englishes” achieved through the use of bilingual concepts. The above thoughts are in line with Gulden (2013) consideration that writing is not a ‘narrowly defined process of text construction’, but a ‘rhetorical negotiation for achieving social meanings and functions.” I support that achieving a specific social meaning and functions would require the legitimacy of bilingual concepts as explained by Xu Xi. My thoughts are that the legitimacy of multiple ‘Englishes’ can allow bilingual writers to express their thought as per the background context of their writings.
Gulden (2013) and Hokenson & Munson (2014) argued that in the modern era, it is quite difficult to tell the difference between a native and non native English writer, because translanguaging had become an indispensable component of creative writing. Xu Xi was of a dissimilar observation in her article where she illustrated the challenges she faced while trying to juggle between writing in native English and “Hong Kong English”. Xu Xi found that “the probability that local literature in English will grow significantly is unlikely”. In opposition of the growth and indispensability of the local language being translanguaged into English writing, Xu Xi offered the thoughts that the translanguaging concept would only become sustainable if the concepts were not drawn from the local language context , but solely from “the linguistic, cultural and life experience of the writer herself.” In the above argument, I would prefer to oppose Xu Xi line of thought because English itself has already accepted the integration of street slang in its vocabulary. There are different street slangs across the world, and it is the writers who have to adhere to the social slangs as opposed to Xu Xi thought of writers emitting new languages.
The above consideration of Xu Xi conception of the sustainability of the translanguaging concept is in conflict with the class reading theories on translanguaging. For example, in the reading Hokenson & Munson (2014) considered that aacademic writing is developed under related objectives of transmitting new disciplinary knowledge and persuasion of readership of the applicability of the new knowledge. With consideration of the ever emerging “Englishes”, I tend to believe that broad emergence of translanguaging are sustainable. Despite the conflicting ideas between my thoughts and Xu Xi thoughts on translanguaging, it is evident that legitimating the translanguage concepts supports Xu Xi ideas and those of sustainability of translanguaging.
Meta-cultural aspects in the article
I feel that Xu Xi fully expresses her meta-cultural experiences throughout the essays as a way of justifying her competence in writing the “Hong Kong English”. The explanation can help the audience understand why Xu Xi chose to become a bilingual writer. In the class readings, meta-cultural aspects competence was described as to equip writing with the component of the bonding experience between the writers experience with the past, present and the future, and with society in general. Xu Xi’s article confirms to the above class reading by her explanation of how she moved from different cultural ties. For example, Xu Xi illustrates that she was born in by Indonesian parents in HongKong, but they forced her to learn English as a first language. Xu Xi later moved to USA, where English was necessary for her to relate with the society in the learning and work environment. Xu Xi later decided to learn Chinese after moving back to Hong Kong. In this journey of Xu Xi, I feel that the various cultural experiences shaped her writing style. In the article, Xu Xi foreshadows how her cultural experiences shaped her writing experiences through the use of the coin journey story she had written earlier.
There are numerous instances where Xu Xi illustrates that her cultural experiences empowered her meta-cultural aspects competence in writing. For example, Xu Xi writes that she wrote a book with two themes of compromise, courage and cowardice, but “that its popularity in Hong Kong has something to do with a local cultural desire to read compromise as a virtue, ignoring the cowardice of the protagonist’s character.” I believe that the above sentence summarizes how her experiences in different cultures enabled her to gain various competencies with regard to matching the target audience interests. In the book she had written, the capability to understand compromise as virtue had been shaped by her experiences in the Chinese culture. Learning the Chinese culture for Xu Xi was achieved through her stay in Hong Kong, family background and her need to learn the Chinese language. I strongly believe that if Xu Xi had failed to learn the Chinese culture through language and residence in Hong Kong, she would have failed to meet the meta-cultural aspects competence. In addition, I also feel that Xu Xi book would have failed to match the Hong Kong audience expectation of fiction components. The above thoughts are based on the class reading definition of the paradigm shift of writing across cultures. Canagarajah (2006) noted that texts are ‘representational’ and there exists no possibility of the writer avoiding to display their identities, values and interests in the texts that they compose. Indeed, in Xu Xi’s article she illustrates that the book she wrote had three themes that expressed her meta-cultural competence. The compromise virtue matched with the Chinese culture, while the themes of courage and cowardice matched with the English culture.
Finding Self Identity in Writing
In the class readings, the major challenge of bilingual users of English in cross-cultural communication was pointed as the longing to put across something that does not make logic in the other culture or language. Kovacs (1994) pointed out that such above challenge would be handled through the component of self translation. In the self translation, Lin, & Lo (2016) noted that the writer can conduct the translation themselves from a marginal language to the dominant language or from the dominant language to the marginal language. With relationship to self translation, Xu Xi noted how she “discovered that word choice or syntax can often embrace Chinese expressions, grammar or syntax. “ In the above reference Xu Xi was illustrating the consequences of having her characters expressing in English but using Chinese based thinking. The resultant of using one language to express while thinking in another language was the evident syntax.
My opinion is that through the use of bilingual approach of self translation, it would be easier for the audience to understand the underlying language. For example, there are some concepts if said in a different language, they would create a disturbing or distorting meaning. Such conflict was explained by Lin, & Lo (2016) as to be solved through the considerations that the cultural supremacy of a particular language in a bilingual society or writer may promote the need for self-translation from a marginal language to the overriding one. In this case, despite Xu Xi having the English language as the dominating language, the need to consider the target audience pusher her to deviate from the above Lin, & Lo (2016) considerations. I feel that instead of using the Lin, & Lo (2016) model, Xu Xi considers to use the considerations that the cultural supremacy of a particular language in a bilingual society or writer may promote the need for self-translation from a dominant language to the marginal one.
Xu Xi’s article revelations of bilingual concepts, translanguaging capacities, multicultural competence and self translation concepts help to understand her justification of writing cultures use more than one language. The competence in the four areas by Xu Xi is confounded in the need to write fluently while thinking in another language. In addition, Xu Xi justification for the need of use of bilingual language is based on the need to adhere to the class learning concepts of different culture having different expectations with both written and verbal communication. I agree and support Xu Xi’s call for justification of bilingual language because one writing style cannot satisfy all people from the various emerging cultures.