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我們一起BIKE吧! (Let’s ride together!)

Written By: daveski on May 16, 2009 1 Comment

Since biking has been on the pages of FIT recently, I thought I’d share my experience yesterday of finding out about the very cool language outreach work being done by Matt at Warm Planet bikes and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

According to this week’s cover story in the SF Bay Guardian, biking as a form of serious form of transportation–and not just a recreational activity–is taking off in San Francisco, with 37,000+ residents using bikes as a primary mode of transport, and with major public works underway to make the city more bike-friendly. Nevertheless, as Matt was telling me, information and ideas about biking don’t necessarily get translated for the many communities in SF for whom English isn’t a primary language.

As Matt (馬特 in Chinese, he told me) was working on my bike yesterday, we got to talking about language and I found out that he had lived in China for a while, is proficient in Mandarin, and has been doing Chinese language outreach for Bike-to-Work Day in San Francisco for the past few years. This means not only going from shop to shop and person to person in and near SF’s Chinatown passing out info about the yearly Bike to Work Day, but also translating the SFBC’s publicity materials into Chinese. Below’s a sample of his sticker-work, now adorning my bike–thanks, Matt!

Perusing the SFBC’s pages, it looks like there were a few bilingual “refueling stations” for this year’s May 14 Bike-to-Work Day; I didn’t see any of the wesite’s content actually available in Chinese, Spanish, or other languages, however. In fact, Matt mentioned to me that, in order to translate (and create) Chinese-language content for his community outreach, he frequently chats online with youth physically located in China, and not San Francisco; with significant dialectal differences, different meanings attributed to common words in Taiwan and the mainland, and the particular linguistic makeup of San Francisco’s Chinese-speaking population, this undoubtedly leads to some interesting dilemmas of translation.

All this makes me wonder…what are the challenges of doing translation and outreach for causes like biking in multilingual communities? Does biking ‘translate’ as “counterculture” when the question of what “culture” is isn’t clear anyway?

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One Response to “我們一起BIKE吧! (Let’s ride together!)”

  1. aaminahm on: 22 May 2009 at 7:19 am

    Interesting post Dave! On Monday I was in Downtown Oakland and I noticed a biker yelling at a truck driver. He actually cursed at the driver for not sharing the road. One thing the biker commented after the driver drove away was that the Oakland police were not supportive of bikers. He said that they and the drivers have a suburban mentality. I thought this was odd especially since biking has always been looked at as a part of recreational activity. However, this might be changing given urban cities like SF. I wonder what the cultural views are of biking? Is there a difference between the opinions on both sides of the SF bay?

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