English in Asian popular culture

English in Asian popular culture. Ed. by Jamie Shinhee Lee and Andrew Moody. (Asian Englishes today.) Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. Pp. 288. ISBN 9789888083572. $25.

Reviewed by Sofia Rüdiger, University of Bayreuth

This book focuses on English in Asian popular culture. As the editors state in the introductory chapter, the purpose of the book is to analyze the roles and features of English in various forms of Asian popular culture. The included contributions are grouped under three headings: listening to popular culture (i.e. music), watching popular culture (i.e. television series, movies, and the Internet) and selling popular culture (i.e. advertising).

 Phil Benson and Alice Chik open the first part of the book with a contribution on reasons for the use of English in Hong Kong popular music, particularly in the alternative music scene. Brian Hok-Shing Chan (Ch. 3) examines the role of English Cantonese code-switching in Cantopop in relation to Hong Kong Chinese identity. The following chapter by Angel Lin focuses on the function of English in the construction of identity and hybridity in the Hong Kong hip hop music scene.

 Roger M. Thompson (Ch. 5) opens the section, ‘Watching popular culture’, with a description of the use of English in Philippine television. Considering television series, movies, and commercials, he finds a collision of cultural values attached to English and Tagalog. In the following chapter, Andrew Moody and Yuko Matsumoto describe ‘Lu-go’, a ‘pop pidgin’ developed by the Japanese comedian Lou Oshiba, in which Japanese functions as the grammaticalizing language and English as the lexifier. Jamie Shinhee Lee (Ch. 7) analyzes how movies can represent sociolinguistic reality: the Korean movie Please teach me English depicts the struggle that many Koreans face when learning English. Liwei Gao (Ch. 8) investigates the use of English online by mainland Chinese netizens for the construction of a modern identity.

The last part of the book centers on the use of English in advertising. Beng Soon Lim and Lu-Ann Ong (Ch. 9) focus on print advertisements for beauty products in Singapore and on how an image of beauty is created through the exploitation of conversational maxims. Ch. 10 by Jia-Ling Hsu is an investigation of the underlying factors involved in the development of Chinese-English code-mixed advertising discourse in Taiwan. Tej K. Bhatia (Ch. 11) gives an account of the main trends in Indian advertising and shows that English–Hindi mixing is a salient feature of advertising in India. The final chapter, by Joseph Sung-Yul Park, analyzes viewers’ responses towards an instance of English mixing in a Korean television commercial.

The articles comprising this collection provide an overview of the sociolinguistic realities of English in Asian popular culture. The editors included studies from a range of Asian countries: Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. The focus on different media forms (e.g. music, television, movies, and advertising in print and on TV) provides the reader with a diversified account of the use and spread of English in popular culture in Asian contexts.