Phelps on Grammatical Gender in Mandarin
Wait — you haven’t heard of his ground-breaking research? With credit to Street-Smart Language Learning for the Fox News link and some fun analysis, along with a generous hat tip to MandarinMnemonics for linking to it with the best headline on this meme: “Michael Phelps, Rosetta Stoned?“, I’m pleased to introduce you to a side of Michael Phelps you probably have not been exposed to. Fast forward to 0:50 for the crux of the analysis.
[RSS subscribers, you’re going to have to click thru to the actual post to see the video]
You heard it on Fox first. Getting started on the basics of Mandarin, Phelps says, “I learned a few of the simple terms and the masculine-feminine terms.”*
Maybe the interviewer was prescient when, with peculiar emphasis, she referred to the endorsement agreement between Rosetta Stone and Michael Phelps as “a no brainer.”
Speaking of unearthing new secrets of Chinese, I’m reminded of Brendan O’Kane’s keen observation about the insights of Ezra Pound, which for some reason O’Kane buried in the comments on a post:
I remain convinced that Pound hit upon truths in e.g. his translation of the Analects that no other sinologist or translator has yet unearthed. For instance, did you know that Confucius hated the Jews?
*In case you’ve alighted here without any background in Mandarin: there is no grammatical gender; that’s one of the many conveniences of the language from the second language learner’s standpoint.
PS: That same Street-Smart Language Learning post links to some Rosetta Stone footage of Phelps trying out his Mandarin. But in the interest of maintaining my perfect record of never belittling anyone’s attempt at Mandarin (not least because my own pronunciation is so belittlable), I can’t say I recommend it.