Link roundup — 31 Jan 2011

While you’re taking a break from launching artillery setting off new year’s fireworks:

Chinese tally marks

I just finished watching the documentary “Please Vote For Me” by Chen Weijun as aired on the CBC. It is 45 minutes of the drama involved in an election at a public school in Wuhan where three students get to run for the position of class monitor and have the other students vote. One of the three students almost ruined it for me by being such a brat, and I fear for anyone among the 老百姓 who someday fall under his domain.

One part of the film caught me a little by surprise. Near the end, as they were finally counting the votes, they employed a tallying system that I’d heard of once before, but it was so long ago and poorly explained that I mostly shut it out of my memory.

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Tiger mothering aside, what is “Chua”?

I’m sure we’ve all read the article and engaged in lots of discussion over the supposed superiority of Chinese mothers.  Amy Chua says she’s Chinese, but “Chua” is certainly not pinyin.  Of course there are lots of different kinds of ways to romanize Chinese but “chua” doesn’t seem to want to map onto any mandarin syllable.  Continue reading

Discounts in Writing

I’ve been trying to learn some Korean lately. Hangŭl 한글/韓글 is easy enough. It can be learned in a couple hours. Actually I went through that before a visit to Seoul in October. While there with friends I stopped in to a small eatery with a handritten menu. The friends, students of Korean, had some trouble making out the letters. I, oddly enough, did not. I just figured maybe it was because the same strokes in handwritten hanzi 汉字/漢字 get messy in the same ways when used to write Korean.

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Elementary humor: Mr. Countless

The other day we were talking about how Chinese puns work, playing on tones vs other phonemes or both. Here’s one from my daughter’s math book that tickled my nine-yr-old funny bone. It depends on a tone change and a phoneme change, but since in this case it’s a phonemic distinction that exists only for some versions of Mandarin, it works that much better as a pun.

(As with the last joke, translation after the break in case you’re practicing character recognition)




And now some translation: Continue reading

Taiwan and ethnicities (民族)

I had lunch with a couple friends the other day. Theyre both Taiwanese and are also both kind enough to humour me by speaking Mandarin during all of our meetings. During our most recent get-together, I asked them what language they grew up speaking on Taiwan. One, whose family moved from Hubei a couple generations back, spoke Mandarin, while the other, his wife, grew up speaking “台灣話”, later clarified as Min-Nan. Curious, and used to things in the PRC where one’s ethnicity is imprinted on an i.d. card for all to see, i asked if they were both 汉族 Han Chinese. To my surprise, they both answered with “what’s that?”.

Han, Hui, Zhuang etc, i said.

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Link roundup — 17 Jan 2011

  1. If no one has emailed you Amy Chua’s WSJ article about so-called Chinese parenting or you haven’t stumbled across it, I’ll give in and agree that you have no life and no friends. Copies are flying everywhere. Apparently, the piece has hit a nerve, and probably paydirt for Chua. But what’s that got to do with Sinoglot, since we’re about language, not parenting or making vast sums of money on trendy themes? In broad terms, I guess it’s the Pinyin found in mainstream media. That is, the most interesting tidbit from the most interesting response I’ve seen to the Chua article (well, I mean besides the video or the meta-parody) was the news that there exists “an online chat group on Douban called “Fumu Jie Huohai” ['The Scourge of Studious Parents']“. Atypical for mainstream media, the reference does not just use dubbing in print, but actually gives that Pinyin (albeit without tones) — which makes it easy to find. For the curious, then, here’s that group: 父母皆祸害.
  2. Chinese-specific instructions for How to Create an e-Book from an Online Reading Site on the Kindle.
  3. Discussion from Victor Mair on Language Log of what the new primetime prohibition against “Chinese dialects” might mean.
  4. An almost completely dubbed report from China Daily that features a new book of old Beijing sayings (h/t Bruce Humes)
  5. Sinocism notes the 106th birthday of Zhōu Yǒuguāng, one of the masterminds of Pinyin (here’s some old Zhou stuff on Beijing Sounds).
  6. A nice summary of some of the implications of 儿化音 (érhuàyīn = adding -r to a word) from An Imperfect Pen. Also from AIP: some fascinating discussion of late nineteenth century translations of western names and concepts into Chinese.
  7. From the always-interesting China Media Project, “a propaganda directive instructing [Chinese media] not to use the term “civil society,” or gongmin shehui (公民社会), in news reports
  8. From Sinoglot’s own Duncan, on Naxi Script Resource Centre, Family God Worship, or “Suzhu” [sɪ55 tɤ21]
  9. And finally, in a flagrant display of conflicted interests, a plug for “Many Heads / Cultural Revolution Medicine” from the long-neglected Beijing Sounds.

ABC E-C C-E Dictionary finally out

The ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary finally appears to be available at Amazon and other booksellers. Announced on in October last year (here), it was pretty hard to get copies of this dictionary until a few days ago, when Amazon finally started stocking it. I’m not sure why this took so long, but I’ve just received a copy, and it looks like it was definitely worth the wait. Let’s take a look at this new dictionary. Continue reading


Here’s a word-order-changes-grammar-and-semantics riddle to spice up your January, courtesy of some schoolbook of my daughter’s I’ve now lost track of. If you know Chinese, it’s only amusing, not difficult. But in case you’re in the process of learning, I’ll not translate till after the break so you can have fun with the original:

有一个人请三个朋友吃饭,他问:“你们怕不怕辣?” 这几个人立即自夸起来。





OK, and now for translation and discussion: Continue reading

Link roundup — 10 Jan 2011

A tea marketer is in need of some translation help at Far Outliers:


This article chooses to use Yunnan Jingmai hill old trees tea is raw material, was steam, rumple, nhibitted by traditional craftbut become, that tea Fa-Etty strengthen to show the milli-, green and yellow bright aroma pure and unadulterated of the teaEsoup, the tase joss-stick and return sweet hold out for long time. Often drimking can help the dig-Eest, go to greasy, the pure spirit of adsolute deing is great. Come to wine etc. This,article more Ch-Een is more fragrant can be collect in dry, well ventilated, avoid the light to have no strange Esmell of environment.

Bruce Humes asks why we need English as an intermediary in the translation of Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk’s work, Other ColorsContinue reading