Handwriting and little ones

The photo on the right is one of three seen in the subway in Shanghai. They’re advertisements for Phillips appliances. The image shows a young child chillaxin’ as a breeze goes by. The caption, in childlike handwriting, says 我家的房子会呼吸 wǒ jiā de fángzi huì hūxī, “my family’s house can breathe”.

Another in the series has a kid freaking the heck out at the shadow of a dinosaur and the caption, which I’m sure I don’t remember perfectly, says something like 哇!恐龙来啦 wa! kǒnglóng lái la, which translates as “holy crap! there’s an effing dinosaur!”

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Cantonese and subtitles

I was trying to watch a movie this evening. By watch I mean use as background noise while I wrote papers. Ideally then it would be in English. Looking for “Shanghai” with Gong Li and John Cusack, I was stuck with the Mandarin dubbed version. That’s 谍海风云 dié hǎi fēngyún for anyone interested.

There are a few things you’ll find when browsing the videos available on Youku, Tudou, 56 or whathaveyou. First, when dealing with the spoken language, Mandarin is called 国语 over 中文 or 汉语 by a large margin. A quick few searches on Tudou returns these numbers (Thits?):

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Mandarin shibboleths among foreigners Beer.

Class has just begun for me. Another fun year of too many credit hours and too many papers to write at the end. The good news is with the amount of exposure I’m getting, I damn well better be mistaken for Dashan’s (大山) Southern kid brother by the end of the year.

To jump start that exposure I’ve been listening to the BBC’s Mandarin broadcasts. There’s a podcast for it that you can find on the iTunes store if you’re interested. One of the things that threw me off is when they give the website address or email address, some people are saying 点 dian and some are saying 点儿, which sounds more like “deer” or “d. r.”. I hear people say “diar” often enough, but “deer” was new to me. Keep in mind I live in an erhua-free zone, and have made it a point in my own speech to never utter a single “-r” be it a 本儿 or a 块儿 or even telling him to stop 在这儿. The first time I heard it I thought they were saying

b. b. c. d. r. c. o. d. r. u. k.

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Reading between the characters

I spend lots of time confusing Chinese characters I half-know for others I’m vaguely familiar with. But I’ve never had trouble identifying where a character started and finished. At least that part is straightforward, right? Everything in a box, one size fits all.

Until, that is, I did a bleary double-take as I came to this…


I’m still not sure what three characters I was trying to make out of it: 相那鬲, maybe? Continue reading

Signage and foreign languages

The first word I ever learned to read in Japanese was クラブ, derived from and meaning “club”. There were 5 such Japanese clubs to be passed in my five minute walk to work last year. But my favourite use of foreign languages in a business façade is probably the massage parlour. A number of them say 안마¹, massage and マッサージ², but not always the Mandarin equivalent.

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An island on an island

Northeast China is hoary in winter (and the winter lasts at least ten months) and torrid in summer, which means that you have to have a lot of different kinds of clothes, not to mention that you have to wear many layers of them all throughout the winter, which makes it difficult to bathe frequently.

The predominant language there is the northeast topolect of Mandarin, 东北话 (dōngběihuà), and that has some interesting features, which I might from time to time continue to blog about.

But I got sick of having it be 12ºC indoors for five months (and the average outdoor temperature all year is less than 5ºC!) and moved south to an island on an island…. Continue reading


Accent pop quiz:

You go to one of the many offices at your school or workplace. These are offices that deal in official business. Administration type stuff.

The nice but somewhat overly energetic woman behind the counter makes demands regarding an item referred to as “fuzao” (IPA: /fuˈʦɑʊ/)* which she’s expecting you to produce.

1. What is it she’s asking for?
2. Where is she from?

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