How to run a multinational company, Part 4

This Taiwanese Subway ad is obviously a pastiche of the old timey tv dramas. The dialogue is meaningless pseudo-antique claptrap (much like in the originals) but the basic thrust is that Subway is doing reduced-calorie sandwiches and you should buy some*. Not that I’d be able to tell you that without the subtitles, since the voiceover is so dialect that apparently even native Taiwanese have trouble getting it.

This is worth comparing with the amazing Hokkien Journey-to-the-West PSA released in Singapore recently.

In both countries the governments have spent years trying to promote standard Mandarin and discourage the use of dialects, though for different reasons. In Taiwan it’s to do with the leaders’ increasingly tenuous claims that they represent the “real” China, and that the communist government in Beijing is a temporary aberration. In Singapore it’s more to do with community cohesion and social integration.

And in Singapore the anti-dialect campaign has largely been successful. Chinese Singaporeans in their 40’s and 50’s tend to speak dialect with their parents but Mandarin or English with their children. Most people under about 30 understand little of their family’s traditional language and speak even less.

Taiwan has seen a different trend. In the years immediately following the setting up of the Kuomintang government Mandarin did succeed in establishing itself over the local dialects to a great extent. However, the most recent generation is comprised of people who have, in many cases, never visited the mainland, feel little connection to it and see themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. However, this doesn’t mean that they’ve also reverted to speaking Hakka, Hokkien or any of the other local dialects that were common prior to the Mandarinisation of the island. Instead, they will tend to speak a version of Mandarin that has drifted away from the version used on the mainland. This is influenced by the dialects (and by English and Japanese) but also simply by the effects of time and separation.

*Long story short: Taoist Immortals don’t eat, so by eating low-fat sandwiches from Subway you’re closer to becoming one.

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