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Introduction

The contributions in this volume comprise selected papers from the 5th Annual Conference of the Asian Studies Irish Association (A.S.I.A.) held at Dublin City University (DCU) in November 2013. The conference was jointly organised by the A.S.I.A., the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies at DCU and the Chinese Studies Department at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. It provided a forum for scholars whose research concerns Asia to come together to contribute to the developing foundation of Asian Studies in Ireland. Taking on the conference theme Conflict and Communication: A Changing Asia in a Globalising World this volume presents multiple perspectives articulated by scholars across disciplines that include Translation Studies, Language Studies, Literary Studies and Computer Science. Within such disciplinary diversity emerged a unity which converged on language and culture as key fundamentals in discussing Asia with the thematic interest of Conflict and Communication. This collection attempts to present a coherent response to the theme albeit rendered according to different disciplinary traditions.

Globalisation has indeed brought languages to the fore. In parts of Asia it has further pushed English as a lingua franca and this has led to inflated expectations of what English can do for global communication, resulting in a wave of hype around learning English. At the same time the learning of an Asian language has been steadily permeating the rest of the world, reflecting the rising influence of Asia. However, in reality Asian languages still remain a relative minority in a suite of foreign languages typically covered in school and university curricula in Europe in general and in Ireland in particular. The first three contributions in this volume address topics associated with concerns arising from foreign language education focused on Asia.

Across China, Japan and Korea globalisation has led to a national obsession for learning English with mastering the English language becoming a key concern at the level of national education policies as well as for individual learners. Adding to this well-trodden topic is the contribution by Lorna Carson who provides a fresh, applied linguistic perspective in her investigation into “English fever” observed nation-wide in Korea. Weaving the country’s strong Confucian background and the tradition of meritocracy (or “testocracy”) into her mix, Carson carries out a nuanced analysis of the deep- seated impact of English language testing on the learners as well as on teachers. In Korea, according to Carson, individual success in English language tests is inextricably connected to family success and social standing, on the one hand, and, on the other, such test scores are used in a gatekeeping function for differentiation as regards to educational progress and employment. By bringing these wider socio-cultural factors under her analytical lens, Carson convincingly demonstrates the importance of such a holistic view in addressing language testing mechanisms so as to take into account unique local contexts in which internationally benchmarked English testing results are often interpreted.

Shifting the locus of interest from Korea to China, Mary Ruane brings to light the little discussed topic of establishing the support infrastructure to disseminate the Chinese language and culture in response to the demand accelerated by China’s rise in economic power. Contrary to other generally well explored aspects of Chinese influence the issues surrounding the increased demand for learning Chinese are largely overlooked or taken for granted by the research community - a gap addressed by this contribution. The network of Confucius Institutes and university-based language centres have both been expanding worldwide in the 21st century in order to address the need for fluent language graduates. And yet, as pointed out by Ruane, there has been very little interaction between these places of learning despite the fact that they are co-located on university campuses. Enriched by her on-site observations, Ruane’s exposition provides an overview of the mechanism for meeting the new demand by the Chinese government through the rapidly expanding Confucius Institutes network as Chinese language and cultural resources. From a language pedagogy and an applied linguistic perspective Ruane highlights challenges facing language education in European countries where the Chinese language is a relatively new addition and proposes possible mutually beneficial strategies: Chinese teaching and learning in Europe would be strengthened by cooperation between the Confucius Institutes which are monolingual in policy and practice and university language centres which work within a framework of multilingualism and plurilingualism.

From this macro perspective focused on the support suprastructure in Europe to the micro one of teaching methods in Ireland, Ann Devitt and Weiming Liu zoom in on an experimental approach for teaching Chinese language at an Irish tertiary institution. Based on the Vygotskian framework of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) a series of empirical studies on coteaching was designed and conducted, involving beginning learners of Chinese. Perhaps contrary to generally limited expectations for early stage learners and their capabilities as coteachers, the authors found that coteaching positively contributes to students’ maturation and mutual cooperation, enhancing the learning of Chinese as well as increasing learner autonomy in taking responsibility for their own learning. In view of the digital learning revolution with current developments such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) increasingly exploiting and promoting a peer learning dimension, the focus on coteaching seems well-motivated and suggests potential for future applications in different languages and subjects.

That language and culture are two sides of the same coin is a fact that language learners soon come to realise in the language classroom while it is part of daily routine for literary translators whose work really is to negotiate between the two different cultural systems. Furthermore, it is particularly relevant to note for the next contribution that in recent years Translation Studies have come to acknowledge the Euro-centric tendency of the discipline and started to look to the rest of the world, including Asia, for a more inclusive perspective. With this backdrop the paper by Nhat Tuan Nguyen is a welcome introduction to the little explored field of translation research concerning Vietnam. In particular, Nguyen tackles the new “chick lit” genre for which Irish writers such as Marian Keyes and Cecilia Ahern have become internationally recognised, including in Asia, through translations. Focusing on the way in which female representations in Irish chick lit manifest in Vietnamese, Nguyen reveals how the source and the target cultures intricately impact on translation. Based on a comparison of popular novels by Keyes and Ahern and their respective Vietnamese translations, Nguyen illustrates specific instances of translation shifts in the representation of female protagonists. His findings that the studied Vietnamese translations sometimes fashion new attitudes breaking out of the traditional moulds of female representation in Vietnam render further support to the view that translators and translations indeed form agents of change of a deep social significance (Milton and Bandia 2008).

The question of representation and identity is also the underlying theme addressed by Qi Zhang and Zhouxiang Lu in their in-depth analysis of the evolution and re-birth of the Chinese martial art films commonly referred to as kung fu films. They demonstrate that Chinese filmic discourse is intertwined in a complex construction of national cinema across the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, reflecting socio-political and socio-cultural dynamics. Through an exploration of cultural nationalism the authors convincingly trace the evidence in kung fu films of the struggle of nationalism against colonialism and paint a picture of the new coming of age of Chinese martial art films on the global stage, illustrated by the phenomenal success of the Ang Lee film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon released in 2000.

The theme of national identity continues with the contribution by Wei Feng through the analysis of the 2012 adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) of Ji Junxiang’s Orphan of Zhao. The paper critically examines the agency of the adaptor in the complex context of intercultural adaptation. Set against the detailed explanations of the original play and its historical contexts, Feng argues that the adaptation approach taken by RSC unwittingly altered the socio-cultural and aesthetic characteristics of the original according to a Western mind-set and theatrical tradition. Feng’s stance defends the original play in relation to the employed method of adaptation by RSC, which he argues is destroying the original unity and harmony with implied marginalisation of Eastern perspectives in the play’s adaptation. This collision of views underlying this paper in itself is an apt illustration of the Conflicts theme of this volume. Adaptation is arguably a contested form and is rarely satisfactory to both the adapted and the adapting. In particular, intercultural adaptation provides a fertile site for debate where the source and the target languages and cultures come into sharp confrontation. The new paradigm, suggested by Feng, of “productive and dialogic encounter between Eastern text and Western form” seems worthy of further exploration and we hope this will ultimately inspire Communication - as the other theme of this volume - for issues beyond intercultural adaptation between the East and the West.

Adaptation is also a key concept in the relatively new type of translation practice known as “localisation” applied to software and other electronic platforms and devices in response to the globalisation need for such products. Localisation caters explicitly to local user parameters both of a cultural and a technical nature in addition to translation of the language. Taking the case of localisation of video games, Minako O’Hagan explores a research avenue focused on methodologies in measuring user response to localised video games. Given the hedonic nature of game products, their entertainment value is prioritised in the localisation process and yet, according to O’Hagan, the current localisation QA testing is primarily focused on functionality, overlooking a broader user experience linked to user emotions. Her proposal to look to user affect ties in with the emerging research impetus in Translation Studies towards user-centred translation and new methodological avenues opening up from emotion research advancing as part of affective computing and affective engineering. The paper calls for Asian Studies scholars to contribute to this newly emerging area of research on game localisation, especially given Asia’s already significant presence in the game industry.

As illustrated in video game localisation, the proliferation of multimedia products and their globalisation needs have seen the domain of localisation and audiovisual translation (AVT) converge (Remael 2010). As a relatively cheap mechanism subtitles and subtitle-like texts are increasingly used today on a broad array of audiovisual media both professionally created and usergenerated. This has resulted in increased research interests in AVT, raising new agenda and ramifications relating to the role of subtitles and other inserts visible on screen. Located in such a problem space is the contribution by Ryoko Sasamoto and Stephen Doherty who focus on the prevalent use of intralingual captions (“impact captions”) on Japanese TV, which are now spread across Korea and China. According to Sasamoto and Doherty these intralingual open captions are added as part of the post-production editing process of a given programme to manipulate viewers’ interpretation. The authors combine the frameworks based on relevance theory and cognitive psychology to argue that the role of these captions is to draw the viewers’ attention to selective information - as distinct from intralingual closed captions designed for the deaf and the hard of hearing. Their work demonstrates instances of such manipulative processes and calls into attention potential risks of limiting the viewers’ interpretation. Sasamoto and Doherty stress the importance of evidence-based research in search of the optimal use of impact captions, including applications in the display of warning messages on TV networks. Such research is indeed timely and urgently needed in the face of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake which amply highlighted serious consequences of communication deficiencies, as addressed by Patrick Cadwell in his contribution.

One of the expanding areas of research interest in Translation Studies is the application of translation technologies in a diverse range of needs and scenarios. In particular, more recently attention has been directed to the use of such technologies in disaster situations which give rise to particular needs of communication mediation across languages. Contrary to the increasing availability of translation technologies a critical analysis of their implementations in emergency situations has so far not been carried out in any systematic manner, according to Cadwell. His contribution hence seeks to understand the role of translation technologies by taking the case of the disaster situations of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Cadwell shares initial insights gained from his rich interview data collected from foreign nationals residing in Japan at the time of the earthquake. The study found that the use of translation technologies was indeed limited and that the communication needs of the foreign nationals at the time of the emergency were not fully met. These findings are particularly revealing especially against the apparent visibility of translation technologies in the public arena as well as their professional uses. Cadwell’s argument supported by the real-life data is persuasive in highlighting the current inadequacy in satisfying the more sophisticated needs of communication at the time of a large scale disaster. His proposals foreshadow further developments of the multidisciplinary area of research in disaster studies crossing over to translation issues. It is hoped that research such as this will lead to better communication infrastructure enhanced by translation technologies so as to serve the dire need of people in emergency situations regardless of their languages.

The concluding chapter by Ronan Reilly and Inthraporn Aranyanak adds a final touch to the rich diversity of topics presented in this volume, further broadening the remit of Asian Studies. Their work in understanding aspects of eye movement behaviours involved in reading Thai and Chinese texts, first of all, reminds us of the vast difference which manifests in Asian language writing systems in comparison with Roman-based counterparts. With a focus on language and culture one of the very basic building blocks are writing systems, for which Asian languages are often shunned by learners who find them intimidating. Furthermore, it was the writing systems which caused major difficulties for some Asian languages in the early days of digital communication in terms of encoding and decoding of characters for their accurate transmission. These are the same issues which posed initial challenges to software localisation especially with Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean (referred to as CJK) as they cannot be accommodated in the space allocated by the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) designed for encoding 128 characters based on the English alphabet (Lunde 2008). This led to the use of international character encoding systems such as Unicode.

Furthermore, among the distinguishing characteristics of certain Asian languages is the lack of white space used to show word boundaries. Native speakers of these languages are naturally attuned to such conventions when reading text in their scripts. However, the exact reading patterns and strategies used by them in relation to the Western counterparts are little known according to Reilly and Aranyanak. In an attempt to fill the gap, the authors employed eyetracking to capture aspects of the native speakers’ eye behaviour involved in reading Thai and Chinese. The study addresses whether there is an explicit difference in the preferred viewing location (PVL) for eyes in terms of “landing site distributions” between languages with and without explicit word separation markers. The empirical study by Reilly and Aranyanak suggests that readers of Thai and Chinese target word centres as do the readers of European languages, and this was further tested and proven by statistically- based computer modelling. Their methodology involved a statistically-based default targeting model based on the prior eye landing site distribution. With the continuous digitisation of texts and the increased use of ebooks, such studies will have many applications and make a welcome link to digital humanities with an Asian focus.

The question of Conflicts and Communication in a Globalising World is a particularly timely theme to reflect upon vis-a-vis unfolding current real-world situations. The scholarly explorations presented in this volume highlight that language and culture remain a worthy focal point for research and indeed are key to resolving conflicts and opening communication in a globalising world. We hope that the perspectives presented in this volume will contribute towards a further expansion of Asian Studies and that they will provide readers food for thought and inspiration for their own areas of research.

We wish to acknowledge the invaluable assistance rendered for the peer reviewing process by colleagues internationally and also locally at the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, Dublin City University.

Dr. Minako O’Hagan and Dr. Qi Zhang

September 2014

Editors

References

Lunde, K. 2008. CJKV Information Processing: Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Computing. 2nd ed. Beijing and Cambridge: O’Reilly Media.

Milton, J. and Bandia, P. 2008. Agents of Translation. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Remael, A. 2010. Audiovisual Translation. IN: Gambier, Y. and van Doorslaer, L. (eds.) Handbook of Translation Studies. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, pp. 13-17.

In: Conflict and Communication Editors: M. O’Hagan and Qi Zhang

ISBN: 978-1-63485-409-2 © 2016 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

 
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