If you follow the Language Log, you would have seen some interesting posts concerning Chinese signs and the protests in Egypt and Libya.
All these signs were extremely fascinating to me. Although Chinese has the most speakers of any language in the world, it is still second to many other languages in terms of global impact and reach. Then these pictures showed up. I always though the best way to write your signs to reach a wider audience would be in English. I mean that’s how you get your message across. It’s a simple choice.
These signs however show a different picture. To understand the choice of the protesters is a difficult one, but one can speculate as to why they chose to write those signs in Chinese. One, would be to target the Chinese population or the Chinese government. Give a message straight to them. The second would be then of course to reach a wider audience, and this ties in with point number three, in that aiming to target the Chinese it is an easy, but less common choice to get noticed. Maybe, English/Arabic signs were plentiful, but having a sign in Chinese would mean interest, but not only will be it seen, but will understood by millions of speakers.
Actually thinking on it, it is rather brilliant. Why not write your signs in Chinese more often? The only problem with this is, it will be hard to write Chinese without people inferring political connotations. If I’m at a global televised rally next time, I’d love to write a sign in Chinese, just reach a much wider audience and get attention for it. But I wouldn’t want it to mean that I target the Chinese government to “listen” to me.
What do you think? Why are these signs written in Chinese? I’m not a genius on the political field, I come from a more linguistic background, so help me out here!