David Henry Hwang on His New Play 'Chinglish'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perhaps this has happened to you before. You’ve said something that someone misunderstood — with or without a translator. Due to culture, language, or even gender, a statement like "I appreciate your frankness" comes across as "I enjoy your rudeness." The new play, "Chinglish" pays tribute to, and pokes fun at, these moments when something gets lost in translation. The play is in both Mandarin and English. And because the show has subtitles similar to those at the opera, the audience is fully in on all the jokes, even when the mono-lingual characters are not. 

David Henry Hwang is the mastermind behind this new comedy, which follows an American to China as he tries to set up business there. He's also the Tony-winning playwright who brought us "M. Butterfly" and "Yellow Face."

Comments [3]

During a summer in Thailand our daughter bought a pair of small, portable speakers with these "design features": "This Mini speaker it may be said is sutra and neoteric perfectly combination article. Brand-new miniature aluminum Chen mem-brane speaker, alt limpid, bourdon purity. New concept integrate stereo then carry move Mini speaker, connect your MP3, mobile . . . Appearance’s high bright beauty, plus equal to youth seek naïve refine masterpiece. Very thin chastity, configure conduplicate metal bracket, much display fashion’s expensive gas." Usually you can figure out that they're trying to say, but we were clueless on this one!

Nov. 17 2011 10:30 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

Public television in Miami already did this almost 30 years ago: "Que Pasa, USA?"

The show showcased Cuban immigrants living in '70s Miami. The dialogue was split between English and Spanish and lots of Spanglish. No subtitles were provided. Though in most cases, these were unnecessary in order to understand the jokes.

Nov. 17 2011 11:10 AM
Fabienne from London

Lost in translation:
When I was an innocent 18-year-old and a foreign exchange student in NM from France, my host-family took me to the state fair. When I tried to express that i did not enjoy roller coaster rides and did not wish to go on one, the words : "It doesn't give me any pleasure" came out of my mouth.
They must have thought "Oh, these French women, always thinking about sex!".

Nov. 17 2011 09:36 AM

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