Spreading ourselves a bit thin?

We’re doing Chinese news now?

I know CBC mandarins are always telling us the Corporation works in English and French “and eight aboriginal languages” – apparently Cree, Inuktitut, Gwich’in, Dogrib or Tli Cho, North Slavey and South Slavey, Inuvialuktun (which is not Inuktitut), and Chipewyan or Dene Suline. (Nine languages are used on RCI, which essentially ghostwrites the new CBC News in Chinese page.) We’re hiring a Cree-speaking radio journalist and an announcer. And there’s always Maamuitaau on TV.

Screenshot shows 25th ANNIVERSARY logo for MAAMUITAAU (and word in Inuktitut)

But most of that “content” is talk radio – fine for the incumbent CBC Northern Service population, but not really useful for the future by itself. (I say that as someone who used to listen to the Breton and Occitan podcasts until they got too boring. I miss the Breton hiphop show. Really.) The Web is a place where minority languages can and do flourish. Cree and Inuktitut, for example, would be well served by CBC Web sites in those languages.

Chinese isn’t a minority language in the same sense. Relevantly, it doesn’t need help and isn’t in danger of collapse. Although one hears of pro-Communist propaganda sneaking into the Chinese dailies, unlike the new CBC page (“We have a real tradition of investigative reporting and journalism that people won’t see somewhere else”), the fact remains there is an extensive private infrastructure for Chinese-language media in this country. Toronto and Vancouver in particular have tons of Chinese TV programming, and some radio, and as many daily newspapers as anglos have. Do we need to compete with that?

Now, the Corpse does have a Mandarin (note the majuscule) play-by-play announcer for hockey games, Jason Wang. (But only on contract. He fits right in!) So there’s a precedent. Were the private Chinese broadcasters covering hockey? Probably not. So that precedent is strong. But private Chinese broadcasters and papers definitely are reporting the news. From a right-wing-asshole standpoint, CBC’s Chinese news is needless duplication.

The page is quite poor from a technical standpoint. Apart from instructing us to download some half-assed “language pack” for Windows ME, and also instructing us to use Firefox on Mac, it’s a textbook example of how not to design a bilingual page. (Language coding, kids!) Actual Chinese content on news-item pages seems to be created solely by JavaScript. That might explain why there was no content on the page for the first three days. CBC Web developers can hereby give up hope that I’m going to send along a strippergram for a job well done.

Incidentally, did no one realize that CBC is a popular slang acronym for Canadian-born Chinese? (The converse is FOB, or fresh off the boat. It can be an adjective: Wow, she’s got a really fobby accent there.) Is CBC Local News in Chinese really aimed at CBCs?

If you’re wondering why I give a shit, this is an interest backed up by actual qualifications (B.A., linguistics, UofT, 1989). Minority languages are one of my things.