Entangled with Traffic Signs: An Ethnographic Account of Internationals Driving in Mainland China
This study investigates the difficulty of internationals’ driving in non-English Chinese environment by reporting on their encounters and reflections in the traffic contexts. The study adopts a geosemiotic perspective and utilizes an ethnography to study foreigners’ usage of traffic signage in Guangzhou, a major and hub city of Mainland China. It collects the verbal and written data of non-Chinese drivers and Chinese traffic authorities as well as scrutinizing some government standards and news reports on this issue. The study finds that foreign sign users are enculturated to an indigenous Chinese driving practice by assimilating into the local “Chinese-only” driving environment. The empirical findings suggest that traffic signs as one form of discourses in place are keyed to culture contextedness for their comprehension and usage by their users as another form of discourses in action. It is therefore argued that although China with its high-end signing system has stepped into a globalized world, the signing system may be less convenient for foreign drivers to mobilize. The contribution of this research rests with two respects: first, it may appeal to more geosemiotic review of signs in the concrete world; second, this study may be helpful in its attempts to make transportation engineers, urban planners, and law enforcers recognize the importance of Romanized versions of traffic signs addressing foreign drivers in Mainland China.
Entangled with Traffic Signs: An Ethnographic Account of Internationals Driving in Mainland China, International Journal of Literature and Arts. Special Issue: Humanity and Science: China’s Intercultural Communication with the Outside World in the New Era.
Vol. 8, No. 3,
2020, pp. 169-176.
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