by Christopher Cheung in Vancouver

Queenie Lai’s parents often call her a “white girl,” because she likes eating western food.

But in fact, though born in Canada, 23-year-old Lai is more in tune with her Chinese heritage than many of her peers. Growing up she studied Cantonese with a private tutor. She watched Hong Kong soaps on TV. She’s even acted in a Chinese theatre group, performing in legends like Mulan and a play based on the life of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

“When I visit Hong Kong, people ask me, ‘Why is your Cantonese so good?’” Lai said. “I tell them, well, I grew up speaking it at home.”

Lai also lives in a very Chinese community, but one very different from the ethnic Chinatowns or Little Italys of the last century. Then, immigrants from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere clustered in inner-city neighborhoods, often not the best, to be close to others who shared their history.

By contrast, Lai grew up in Richmond, British Columbia, a bustling modern suburb that, away from its wetland trails, fresh produce farms, and the quaintly historic fishing village of Steveston, can feel like a mirror of East Asia. If you speak Chinese here, you can see a doctor, get a haircut, attend a church, buy a house or car—all without uttering a word in English.

But Richmond isn’t the only suburb with strong overseas influence. It’s an example of a growing demographic trend that’s turning the patterns of the last century on their head. Geographers call it the “ethnoburb,” and others have appeared outside longtime immigrant cities like Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne in Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.

Many ethnoburbs have more immigrants as a share of their total population than their associated urban cores, and often more than native-born residents. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, more than two-thirds of Richmond residents—69 per cent—are immigrants to Canada.

The same survey found that Surrey, a South Asian ethnoburb next door, has an immigrant population of 40 per cent. It’s also home to lavish sari shops and Indian wedding banquet halls on a scale beyond that found in Vancouver proper.

Markham, outside Toronto, has a 58 per cent immigrant population; Richmond Hill, 55 per cent. The Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverly is half immigrants.

But while cities and suburbs undergo new transformations, getting along with new neighbours brings the same tensions as around the ethnic enclaves of old.

Breaking a stereotype

The term “ethnoburb” dates to 1997. Chinese-born geographer Wei Li coined the phrase for a phenomenon she encountered when she moved to Los Angeles to study in 1991.

A professor suggested that rather than find a place to live in Los Angeles’ Chinatown area, she try the suburbs.

“You are Chinese, right?” Li recalls the professor asking. “Why don’t you live in Monterey Park, in the San Gabriel Valley? That’s a Chinese area, you would feel very comfortable.”

Li was puzzled. The stereotype she knew was that North American suburbs were populated with white working dads, stay-at-home moms, and their children. In contrast, the inner city was for immigrants.

But when she saw Monterey Park for herself, she was in for a surprise.

“Had it not been for the heavy automobile traffic and frequent gas stations, I could almost imagine that I was back walking in Beijing,” she wrote of the experience.

San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County is home to a shopping centre known as “the great mall of China,” where restaurants serve Mongolian hot pot and spicy chili-and-cumin Hunan. A suburb called Arcadia has been christened “Mistress City,” as they say it’s where Chinese tycoons hide their secret girlfriends and wealth. And in Monterey Park, where the professor directed Li, Taiwanese bubble-tea shops have been dubbed the “Starbucks of the valley.”

These were not the Chinatowns of old.

Old desires, new opportunities

Intrigued, Li began studying the phenomenon—eventually writing a book about it: Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America, published in 2009.

By then, she says, ethnoburbs had been around for decades after beginning to emerge as early as the 1960s.

The decade opened an era of widening ethnic tolerance. Newcomers were no longer limited by social attitude—and even laws—to enclaves.

Political tensions and the desire for a better quality of life, especially for families who wanted children to have a western education, drove people from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to emigrate. At the same time, immigration policies in many developed countries welcomed entrepreneurs. By the 1980s and ‘90s, many ethnoburbs had surpassed the inner-city enclaves where newcomers had been settling in for well over a hundred years. And their growth seems likely to continue, Li said in an interview.

Originally, it was China’s top-tier cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen—that saw emigration to global ethnoburbs. “Now, even second-tier cities in China have heard of places like Richmond, Monterey Park, and Flushing in New York,” Li said.

Second-tier cities include provincial capitals and coastal cities like Chongqing, Chengdu, and Wuhan, recent growth engines of the Chinese economy. Those three alone had a population two-thirds the size of Canada’s—22.3 million people—as of 16 years ago, the last census published.

Asia’s global banks and large informal capital outflows are also helping Asian ethnoburbs flourish faster than counterparts centered on Latino and Afro-American immigration, Li said.

Emigrating to the familiar

One thing hasn’t changed: immigrants still like to settle where immigrants have already settled. Geographers call this chain migration. Once word of the new ethnoburbs got around, they grew fast. Letters, phone calls, and then emails back to the old country, enticed others.

That’s how Queenie Lai ended up in Richmond in 1992. Friends already living there told her parents and grandparents that life was better there than in Hong Kong.

Lai’s mother has no regrets about their choice. Vien Suen is a hairdresser at the Yaohan East Asian mall; her husband does lawn work. In Richmond, Suen says, “The weather is better, and the education and environment for the kids is better. The change in our lifestyle was small.”

The cultural familiarity of ethnoburbs can help ease other transnationals’ yearnings for some of Asia’s hyper-stimulating density and constant action.

Edward Zhao came to Canada in 2002, settling from Beijing with his mother at the age of seven. His father, who worked for a chemical company, remained in China.

Now 21, he’s been back to China on holiday a few times, and finds Vancouver “much more quiet and comfortable compared to Asian cities.” On the other hand, Zhao adds, “There’s not much to do.”

That’s why Richmond is Zhao and his friends’ definitive place for entertainment that mimics Asia’s energy: lots of late-night restaurants, arcades, and Zhao’s favourite, karaoke parlours. He’s a big fan of Korean pop songs.

“I always hog the mic,” he confessed.

Here, but still apart

But if there’s comfort for immigrants in ethnoburbs, there is also segregation.

Ethnoburbs may be different from the confined enclaves of the past, but the choice to live life entirely in one’s own ethnic community can come at the expense of a newcomer’s integration into their new country.

One key aspect: language. In 2011, Statistics Canada revealed that 10 per cent of Richmond residents don’t speak English or French, compared to 5.6 per cent in the region.

“My parents’ English still isn’t the best,” laments Lai. “I was like, ‘You’ve been here for 20 years!’”

And the same qualities that make an ethnoburb feel so familiar to newcomers can have the opposite effect on longer-standing residents.

In Richmond, one group held an extended debate with city hall over there being ‘too much’ Chinese writing on business signs. Residents of a condo building complained when the strata council held its meetings only in Mandarin.

And just as in other parts of gateway cities, as wealthy Chinese buy properties in ethnoburbs, they have been blamed for driving prices out of local reach. One Los Angeles suburb has been advertised to overseas buyers as the “Chinese Beverley Hills.”

In the wake of fears about foreign influence, Li says intergroup harmony is one of the top challenges of ethnoburbs today. “There can be surges of nativism, and even racism.”

A playful response

Australia and New Zealand are among the places where Asian immigration has populated ethnoburbs. In New Zealand, 48-year-old Richard Leung has watched them emerge around Auckland in places like Mount Albert and Avondale.

Leung is the chair of the deep-rooted New Zealand Chinese Association’s Auckland branch, historically formed by Cantonese-speaking labour and service immigrants from south China. Most new arrivals hail from the booming cities of Mandarin-speaking China.

“The elephant in the room for our organization is how we do we accept these new Mandarin speakers,” said Leung. Longtime Chinese New Zealanders, he says, feel “colonized” by the newcomers, who outnumber native-born Asian Kiwis in Auckland by roughly four to one, according to a survey by the Asia New Zealand Foundation last year.

Leung has responded playfully: organizing family sports days to bring newcomers and residents of longer standing together in activities that don’t depend on language.

“We couldn’t speak to many of them, because we didn’t have the Mandarin,” said Leung. “But we decided that we’d just keep doing what we’re doing. Our idea is that the new migrants will have children, and their children will become Chinese New Zealanders like us.”

New nations on the block

Nelson Ou knows how wonderful a taste of home can be in a new place. When he came to Canada from Taiwan at age 20, he was overwhelmed with culture shock.

“I was really lonely and I really missed home,” said Ou, now 32. “But the first time I had Taiwanese food, I was happy. There’s something so familiar to people when they eat their own culture’s food.”

Ou was so happy, in fact, that he took a job at the restaurant. A few years later, he opened his own Taiwanese restaurant, Strike, in Richmond, to serve the same beef noodle soup and peppery fried chicken that gave him comfort.

Limiting himself to a cultural enclave could’ve made things easier, said Ou, but he didn’t want to avoid living in a new, multicultural society.

It wasn’t easy adjusting. He had to “start from scratch and work hard to have an ordinary life,” taking ESL classes, working at Starbucks and restaurants, and eventually earned a financial broker certificate.

“New immigrants these days don’t seem to want to join the community,” said Ou. “They want to change the community to be like the ones they used to live in.”

“When you decide to live here, even for three or five years, that’s quite a long time. I think people should be more open-minded to new ways.”

And he means that both for immigrants and people who’ve been here all their lives.

“Look at bubble tea. It’s for sure not for immigrants only,” said Ou. “In Richmond, some Caucasians have had bubble tea since they were 10 years old. Even 7-Eleven here sells fake bubble tea in their sandwich refrigerators. It’s part of the mainstream now. It’s fun to live here because diversity is part of the culture here.”

Ethnoburbs are dynamic places, after all, said Wei Li.

“Any multiracial, multicultural community can go either way,” she said. “It can become more concentrated, or eventually dissipate.”

It’s up to immigrants like Ou and locals alike to define their home. 

Published in partnership with The Tyee, where this reporting first appeared. 

Published in Arts & Culture

by Jacky Habib in Toronto 

Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.

“Instead of walking south, hed walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didnt know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.” 

Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities. 

Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimers and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care. 

The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peters main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule. 

“Its not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.” 

Reverting to native language, reliving trauma 

Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children. 

Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network."[/quote]

“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says. 

The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.  

It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.  

Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia. 

“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.” 

The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese. 

Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma. 

To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of people revert to their first language.”[/quote]

Accessing culturally specific services 

For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern. 

This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians. 

The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients. 

“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize theyre in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel theyre in familiar grounds and dont get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds. 

Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of peoples experiences and expectations. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”[/quote]

“Health-care [in Canada] isnt as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.” 

This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains. 

Caregivers face challenges also 

Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.

Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave. 

Although hes a quiet person who doesnt converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and its tough to handle on her own. 

“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. Ive got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I dont think positive, hell be worse.” 

Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified. 

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Published in Health

by Deanna Cheng (@writerly_dee) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Twelve tables of mahjong (Chinese tile game) in Vancouver’s Chinatown Memorial Square fill up with fervent game-goers within 15 minutes. Silence quickly turns into chatter mixed with the clickety clack of tiles. A diverse pocket in British Columbia's largest city comes to life.

Last Saturday, a local group called the Youth Collaborative of Chinatown (YCC) hosted a public games night titled, ‘Chinatown Mahjong Social: A Hot and Noisy Night’. The games night was the first to kick off a series of events to regenerate public spaces in Chinatown.

‘Hot and noisy’ is a play on the Cantonese word yitnaau and the Mandarin word renao and loosely translates into a measure of liveliness in an atmosphere.

Mahjong is a game played between four players with a set of 144 tiles inscribed with Chinese characters and symbols. The game is one of skill, strategy and calculation. It also involves a degree of chance – or what some seniors would call luck.

‘Bring Your Own Poh Poh

‘BYOPP – Bring your own poh poh (grandmother)’ called out the youth group’s Facebook post advertising the June 20 event.

Mark Lee did more than that. Along with his grandmother, he brought his boyfriend, his sister and her husband.

The 24-year-old is half-Chinese and half-British; his connection to Chinatown stems from a deep connection to his grandmother.

“When I was little, she’d pick me up from preschool. When we were sick, she was there to make us feel better … and also, make us drink soups.” 

As a kid, Lee would ask her to teach him how to write Chinese and she showed him simple words. When he asked her to teach him Cantonese, she told him to go learn Mandarin. So he did.

The University of British Columbia graduate now has a major in linguistics and a minor in Chinese. He’s also fluent in Mandarin and has a basic understanding of Cantonese.

“The whole reason I’m involved with Chinese was to communicate with Grandma,” Lee says. “It’s been nine years and I still can’t.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.” - Mark Lee[/quote]

One of his goals is to learn Cantonese. Another one is to be part of the revitalization effort of Chinatown and to prevent gentrification.

“I hear stories about people with family in Chinatown, but [they] never come here,” he says.

Lee wants to do more than organize just social events with the YCC. He wants an intergenerational connection. He admits the language barrier can be an obstacle, but points out that there are others who can translate – and that it’s an opportunity to learn the language. All that’s required, he says, is for people to show up to their events.

“This is ideal … seeing old folks with young people learning how to play mahjong.”

Players of All Ages and Ethnicities

Colourful paper lanterns hang on the trees next to where local artist Yule Ken Lum has set up his cart doubling as a makeshift studio. He invites the public to finish decorating the last tiles of his 300-piece mosaic. It depicts the words ‘CHINATOWN’ in a giant heart stencil.

Lum says he is surprised by the age and diversity of the turnout. “At the Chinese chess table, it was good to see a poh poh sitting by a Caucasian girl, like a team.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media.” - Doris Chow, Youth Collaborative of Chinatown[/quote]

Meanwhile, on a board with neon sticky notes, participants write suggestions for future events. Some ideas include: tai chi, line dancing and outdoor film screenings.

As all the tables of mahjong fill up, passersby appear disappointed so event organizer Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon (pictured above on the right) offers to set them up with Chinese chess and Chinese checkers. They choose to watch instead.

Resisting Chinatown’s ‘Doom and Gloom’

Vancouver’s Chinatown spans about a nine-block radius, not including the residential area. It is part of the downtown eastside, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods and is commonly referred to as ‘Canada’s poorest postal code’.

In recent years, Chinatown has undergone large and rapid development projects, including sky-high condominiums occupied with young urbanites that don’t speak Chinese, construction plans for water main upgrades along Pender Street, located near the centre of Chinatown and the end of the Chinatown Night Market. But there is still more work to be done.

“Our goal is to engage youth to take part and do what they’d like to see instead of listening to the ‘doom and gloom’ about Chinatown in the media,” explains YCC member Doris Chow (pictured above on the left).

Seniors often want to communicate their history with youth, but don't know how to go about it, she adds. “The YCC can work as translators to help shrink the intergenerational gap.”

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Published in Arts & Culture
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:29

OMNI TV's Fading to Black

Rogers Media Inc. announced earlier this month that it would be replacing daily multi-language newscasts on OMNI Television with half-hour, multi-language current affairs programs instead.

Simultaneously the Rogers media giant cut 110 jobs, the majority of which came from its OMNI multicultural stations’ television operations.

The announcement naturally sparked great discussion amongst various circles. Here at New Canadian Media, we brought together three marketing experts who have followed OMNI's trajectory for a long time to weigh in on this question: What went wrong with OMNI and what does this mean for multicultural programming in Canada? (See Storify below)

An Inconsistent Viewership // by George Kan in Vancouver

When Rogers first acquired OMNI, it must have seen it as a great opportunity. The station had the resources, but did Rogers make the necessary investments to make the channel thrive?

Look at one of OMNI’s biggest competitors in the Chinese television market: Fairchild. That company succeeded in digging deep and understanding what its viewership wanted.

As a result, Fairchild broadcasted Chinese programs that captured its target audience’s attention and in return, advertising revenues. Whereas OMNI used programs such as “The Simpsons” and “Late Show with David Letterman” to keep its ratings up, but ignored what the ethnic viewers wanted. 

That was the beginning of a vicious cycle.

How is “The Simpsons” a relevant program to a multicultural audience? OMNI failed to attract the ethnic audience, and diverted its attention to the general Canadian audience.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.[/quote]

As a result, this inconsistent viewership failed to attract revenues from advertisers that want their message to reach a specific ethnic market. Subsequently, profitability plummeted, leading to the disincentive for Rogers to invest in high quality programs for OMNI, and thus, failing to interest its intended viewers.

Granted, OMNI must abide by restrictions from the CRTC, but surely it could have made its programs more relevant.

The most watched programs during prime time are Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin daily news. From an advertisers’ perspective, those were the most attractive timeslots that advertising agencies would recommend to their clients. The daily news was also the most effective form of interaction with the community; without it, OMNI has lost the spirit of cultural connection.

Now that OMNI has removed these essential programs that appealed to the largest audience, where will they go from here?

This channel has failed to attract viewers for the past years, how can it be so sure that this change that rendered 110 people unemployed, was the best decision?

Is removing multicultural news from the daily cycle, and depriving these ethnic groups of the right to watch daily news in their native language on the only free multicultural channel offered, a viable first step? Has Rogers given up on OMNI?

George Kan is a Partner and the Creative Director of Vancouver based multicultural advertising agency, Captus Advertising. He has worked on world renowned brands such as Nike, Shell Oil, Nestle, Citibank, Rolex and Ford Motors. In 2009, George and his partner decided to start up their own agency and established Captus Advertising. In five short years, Captus is now one of Canada's most awarded creative multicultural agencies.

Representing the ‘Ethnic Aisle’ // by Robin Brown in Toronto

The challenge for OMNI is that its design is not suited to the increasingly empowered multicultural audience.

In retail, an “ethnic aisle” with a mix of ethnic produce used to be appropriate, but now does not meet the needs of shoppers who already have access to more and better from ethnic stores.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.[/quote]

To some extent OMNI represents the “ethnic aisle”. Viewers have access to a much wider range of culturally targeted content. Additional to this, newcomers are less language dependent so they can pick and choose their content within and outside of their ethnic media.

And the fact is that money talks.

At Environics we recently analyzed awareness of Chinese New Year advertising campaigns for one of our clients with and without OMNI in the mix. There was no increase in awareness due to the addition of OMNI alongside Fairchild and other culturally targeted channels.

We have consistently seen other cultural targeted channels such as Fairchild, Asian Television Network, and even streaming offerings like iTalkBB, as being more effective for advertisers.

Robin Brown is Senior Vice-President, Consumer Insights at Environics Research Group, a research and consulting firm and co-author of the book "Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada."

OMNI: Presence, Then Silence, Then Absence // by Gavin Barrett in Toronto

There are inherent dangers and risks in launching an ethnic channel or publication. In recent times, we have seen both new players and well-established ones ride into the sunset. 

Mehndi TV made a comet-like appearance, flashed across our airwaves for a year, only to fade to black. That was a couple of years ago. It has since appeared in another constellation – on the website unpromisingly named Channel Zero. 

Multimedia Nova, a publishing group whose newspapers included the 59-year-old Italian Newspaper Corriere Canadese, shut its presses in 2013.

The 53-year-old Canadian Jewish News shut down its print edition and went all digital in 2013.

But the OMNI announcement makes me wonder if something else is at play here.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous.[/quote]

I wonder, for instance, if OMNI was “too ethnic”? In other words, did OMNI take an oversimplified content strategy with the ethnic consumer?
Allow me to explain. There is too often a rush to dumb down our understanding of Canada’s multicultural markets.

Too often, ethnic consumer targets are rendered into shapeless homogenized blobs that bear no resemblance to what is actually a much more finely nuanced, multi-faceted cultural reality. A content or advertising strategy created for these fictional language-centric monoliths produces fuzzy, undefined work that has little appeal or relevance.

It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges, but this is both facile and dangerous. 

After all, there are cultures united by language and separated by geography and, equally, cultures separated by language and united by geography. Add religion and history and we start to see an incredibly complex mosaic. There is rich irony in the mental visual of senior OMNI TV executives closing their eyes to this.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.[/quote]

Worse, this oversimplification is often combined with an attempt to keep new Canadians in their ethnic boxes. To do this is to deny the powerful narrative contained in the immigrant journey and to forget the impact that becoming Canadian has on the immigrant's life. A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada. Our experience alters us.

The words over the Queen Street viaduct in Toronto remind us, “The river I step in is not the river I stand in.” As we make our way in Canada, Canada changes us. And we change Canada. This is powerful stuff that is rich territory for original content.

I think OMNI could have significantly helped its cause by taking a leaf out of CBC’s book by using more original Canadian content in the official languages to target the multicultural Canadian viewer. And, by that, I mean the Canadian viewer.

I look at CBC’s Hocket Night in Canada play-by-play sportscasts in Punjabi and Mandarin and shows like “Little Mosque on the Prairie” – very diverse programming that reflects a very diverse reality – and I ask why couldn’t we see more of that?

We have an amazing talent pool in multicultural Canada. There’s a multicultural renaissance going on. Right now, the Tarragon Theatre is staging an Indo-Canadian version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado and it’s been getting rave reviews.

We have writers like M G Vassanji, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry and Vincent Lam. We have comedians like Russell Peters, Mikey Bustos, Ron Josol and Sugar Sammy. Bands like Delhi 2 Dublin, artists like Ritesh Das. This is not a country with a shortage of multicultural content.

Rogers is a sophisticated media-and-message convergence advocate and a successful player in that game, so I find it difficult to accept that it is allowing its investment to fail so easily.

I feel OMNI really had a good thing going with its newscasts, but I was shocked when the station dropped the South Asian news in English a couple of years ago. Almost every South Asian I knew watched it. 

I felt then that it had stepped off an edge and was suspended momentarily in mid-air. Now it plummets. 

Gavin Barrett is Founding Partner, Creative Director and Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh. As writer, art director and VP/creative director, Gavin has worked for Lintas and DY&R Rediffusion in Bombay, India; JWT and Leo Burnett in Hong Kong; and Maclaren McCann and at Vickers & Benson/Arnold Worldwide. He co-founded barrettandwelsh in 2003. 

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Published in Commentary

by Tung Chan (@28WPender) in Vancouver

The federal election season is fast approaching. The BC civic election was a mere three months ago. Every aspiring federal politician will try to vie for the attention of every eligible voter. With so many residents speaking Chinese in the lower mainland and Greater Toronto, getting their attention in their own language seems to be a good thing for politicians to do.

The Chinese language media is a force of its own. If you have attended any political media conferences lately, you will notice the number of reporters representing Chinese language media organizations out-number the English language media outlets. They are diligent and report news almost verbatim from what was said and what was in the press kit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A case in point is how NPA’s Vancouver mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s name appeared in various Chinese newspapers when he first announced his candidacy. You don't need to know how to read Chinese to see that they all look different.[/quote]

They will, for the benefit of their consumers, translate the English proper names into Chinese. If a Chinese name was not provided, each news outlet will make up a phonetically translated name base on the mother tongue of the translator.

A case in point is how NPA’s Vancouver mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe’s name appeared in various Chinese newspapers when he first announced his candidacy. You don't need to know how to read Chinese to see that they all look different: Ming Pao Daily (明報): “拉波特", Sing Tao Daily (星島日報): “拉波因特”, World Journal (世界日報): “拉龐特”, Dawa Business Press (大華商報): “凱克.拉波特". Together, these four dailies have a daily circulation in the low six figures and reach about one in five Chinese-Canadians in the lower mainland.

Can you imagine what kind of a nightmare it would be if you try to promote yourself as a politician to the Chinese-Canadian readers of these four newspapers? LaPointe’s team soon caught on and issued an official Chinese name for him: 賴普德. 

Creating a Chinese Name

There are generally four ways to generate a Chinese name from English. They are i) literal translation, ii) pure phonetic translation, iii) beautified phonetic translation and iv) trans-creation.

The first method, literal translation, is the most simple. This method of name creation is more applicable for organizations where their name has a meaning and less useful for individuals whose names usually carry no meaning. This method is particularly appropriate when the name has a positive connotation in Chinese. For example, the Royal Bank’s name in Chinese is 皇家銀行, which literally means Royal Bank. This method may not be as appropriate if the translated name is not so positive in the target market. For example, Volkswagen could be translated into 大眾汽車. The name was not used because “common people’s automobile” may not be the image it wants to project to the Hong Kong Chinese consumers. So it calls itself in Hong Kong 福士, a name translated using the pure phonetic translation method that means “good fortune person”. (Volkswagen uses 大眾汽車 in Mainland China, as the name is more acceptable in that market.)

The second method, pure phonetic translation, is a standard translation method used by official news outlets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The aforementioned Chinese names for LaPointe used by the four local Chinese language outlets are generated based on this method. However, because the same Chinese character is pronounced differently in Cantonese (used mainly in Hong Kong) and Mandarin (used in China and Taiwan), the same English name is assigned different Chinese characters depending on the language spoken by the translator. To understand how this works, imagine how the numeric symbols 1, 2, 3, etc. are pronounced differently by English, French and German speakers even though the symbols are the same.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Our mind is set up to learn by association. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to associate a pure phonetically translated name to something in their memory bank.[/quote]

I still remember when I was a youngster living in Hong Kong, I was confused when reading news about the US. I was confused because U.S. President Kennedy was known as 甘迺迪 in the Hong Kong based newspapers and 肯尼迪 in the Mainland China based newspapers. For a while, I mistakenly thought the U.S. had two presidents.

This method of translation is not very helpful if your aim is to create a memorable name in the minds of Chinese speaking consumers. Our mind is set up to learn by association. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to associate a pure phonetically translated name to something in their memory bank. To understand this point, see if you can register the name “Tung Yun Tong” in your mind. The name is just three meaningless sounds that you would have a hard time to visualize. However, to most Canadians who speak Chinese, 同仁堂 is a well-known, respected and established traditional Chinese herbal store. It is with this understanding in mind that the Bank of Nova Scotia stopped some years ago from using 士高沙 (a pure phonetic translation of the word Scotia) as their official Chinese name.

The third method, beautified phonetic translation, is the most commonly used method. This is a modified approach of the pure phonetic translation method. The starting point of this method is the phonetic pronunciation of the name followed by choosing culturally meaningful homonyms. The official Chinese name for the aforementioned LaPointe, 賴普德, was arrived at by such a method. The three Chinese characters are pronounced in Cantonese as Lai Po Dug and approximate LaPointe.  

The word 賴 is a common Chinese surname; 普 means general, universal or popular, while 德 means virtue or moral. Thus, 賴普德 is far better than the pure phonetic name 拉波特 used by one of the local Chinese language newspapers. Another such example is the Chinese name for the Toronto Dominion Bank. It dropped the pure phonetic name of 道美寅 in favour of the beautified phonetic name of 道明. Both of the Chinese names were based on the word “dominion”. 道美寅 has no consequential meaning while 道明 means a “bright pathway”.  

The Chinese name for Coca-Cola, 可口可樂, is another wonderful example. The four Chinese characters are pronounced in Mandarin as Kē Kou Kē Lè and can roughly be translated as, “pleases your mouth, makes you happy.” 

The fourth method, trans-creation, is by far the most powerful, but less used one. This method is used almost exclusively for commercial entities and rarely used by individuals. The starting point of this method of name generation is to crystallize the essence of the resulting image one wants to project onto the consumer. The second step is to pick a name that best reflects that essence, but doesn’t necessarily bear any relationship to the actual English name. Thus the HK and Shanghai Bank becomes 匯豐銀行 (plentiful remittance bank), the Bank of Nova Scotia becomes 豐業銀行 (plentiful business bank) and Manulife Financial becomes 宏利財務 (grand profit financial). The Chinese names of all three examples cited above resonate with people who understand Chinese and is by far the most effective way to brand a product unless you are working with a pan cultural name like “Apple” 萍果.

Good luck in picking a powerful Chinese name this election.

This article first appeared here on Choice Communications' blog. 

Tung Chan is Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. Tung is also a member of the Board of the Vancouver Foundation, the Rick Hansen Institute and the Canadian Foundation Of Economic Education. From 2006 to 2010, Tung was the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a social service agency in British Columbia. He is among this year's recipients of the Order of British Columbia.







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