20 April 2009

Lin Yutang

Multilinguality cannot be separated from multiculturality. One of the advantages of having a mother tongue different from the language you write in is your bringing into the new culture the best of your original culture.

Take the example of Lin Yutang (mother tongue Chinese, second language English). The following famous passages from his English works show a distinctly Chinese character in terms of the content (ancient wisdom) and form (proverb-like):

A good traveller is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveller does not know where he came from.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

Where there are too many policemen, there is no liberty. Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice.

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