The Mixed Signals
As starter, I listened to its Special English program, known for a good source to learn English, because it’s easier to understand. It talked slowly, used limited vocabulary, and spoke simple sentence.
The first time I heard it, I felt it’s so weird that American spoke that way. It’s like baby talk. But instead of a baby saying “A dog walks in the park today. He pees on me”, which came cross naturally, the baby from VOA would say “The stock market crashed today. The Dow Jones Index lost 287 points”. It took me while to get used to it; it’s helpful when I was yet to understand adult English.
It came with a price, though. Before long, I noticed that my talking style began to resemble the VOA’s. It wasn’t so bad if I were speaking English, since I couldn’t do faster and use the fancy words anyway. Then, the same pattern started to creep into my Chinese. Having seen enough concerned eyes, I decided to stop listening to Special English once for all; turning my native language into baby talk would be too much a price to pay for a radio program.
VOA’s regular English program was the best alternative to the Monitor. But I enjoyed it less than the latter. Not that I was bothered by its slight propaganda tone—anyone who grew up in a propaganda state would have developed a good immune system. The problem was that VOA became so visible in China that the authority worked very hard to block it. Rather than jamming it in your face, however, the invisible hand broadcasted its own English program, Radio Beijing, in the same frequency. So it happened, sometimes, I heard something like this:
“The Tiananmen Square was…(inaudible)…It’s proved again that our Party is wise, our military is decisive, and our country is strong…(overlapping)…several thousands of civilians were estimated…(inaudible)…on the socialism road firmly and steadfast…”
I might be able to survive the Radio Beijing alone, but mixing it with VOA was just too much for me. As a result, most of the time, I quit both.