Google translate strikes again, bothers Chinese

I recently had a ton of dental work done so to heal I’ve been sitting in bed catching up on tv shows.

I was watching an episode of Fringe, the JJ Abrams show that early on was likened to the X-Files. Anyway, in a particular episode in the third season, a character is kidnapped and held in a secret lab in Chinatown. She escapes, runs through the neighbourhood looking for help, and whatever. As I was watching, I was thinking, “wow, they didn’t fuck up so much with the Chinese on this one”. I just assumed it was because they filmed it in a real Chinatown and were therefore not responsible for any accuracies or inaccuracies.

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Water calligraphy tricyle

I’m poaching this from Danwei. But I feel like if I failed to post about it here I’d be doing our readers a disservice. From Danwei:

Water calligraphy is a poetic activity that you can observe in many Chinese parks: Artists use a large brush to write Chinese characters using water instead of ink. Minutes after the characters are written, they disappear.

Media Artist Nicholas Hanna built a tricycle that writes Chinese characters on the ground as it moves.

His tricycle is part of an exhibition for Beijing Design Week: You can see it at the Northern Electric Relay Factory in Dashilanr, south of Qianmen gate. The exhibition opens 6pm on Saturday September 24, 2011, and runs until October 3.

Read the original post to see a larger photo as well as a video explanation by the creator.

Comment problems

Apologies to our readers, but comments seem to be down as of today. We’re aware of the problem and looking in to it. If you have made comments and they are not showing up, please email us here or here.

The problem has been fixed. The theme should be back to normal now. Apologies for any inconveniences for the past week.

Android / HTC help: can’t write hanzi?!

Warning: what follows is a shameless use of this blogging forum for personal reasons.


I’m up and typing 汉字! Thanks much to the kind readers who wrote with suggestions, including one who apologized about being slow to follow up with a phone number because, well, she’d just had a baby and had been in the hospital!

I’m not sure why it worked, but in the end what did the trick was installing the multiling keyboard per Alastair’s comment below — not because I’m using that keyboard per se, but because during the setup process the system started recognizing that Google Pinyin (the one I originally wanted to use) was installed.

Anyway, thanks!


I’ve got an HTC Mytouch slide 4g I just brought back from the US that refuses to use the Google Pinyin IME (输入法) I’ve installed. I tried Sogou’s IME and can’t get it to work either.

Need I say that life in Beijing is not harmonious with a Chineseless cell phone? After numerous Factory Resets, an attempt at rooting, and plumbing the depths of my unapproved-for-10-year-old-daughter lexicon, I’m looking for a miracle.

If there’s a kind-hearted Android whiz out there who would be willing to sort through the fetid details with me, I’d be forever indebted. Just email me (syz AT sinoglot DOT com).

Tangentially, why does this always happen the same week you discover your second mouse is going haywire (the first one’s fresh in the trashcan that hasn’t even been taken out yet) and your laptop with the only functioning soundcard in the house gives up the ghost?

Chagatai & Uyghur writing

I’ve been redoing the various logos for the site, adding in a number of scripts and languages that had otherwise been missed the first time around. More on that later. In doing this I’ve been spending a fair amount of time looking at Sogdian and Arabo-Persian derived scripts being used for languages within modern China’s borders.

In the 5th century the Sogdian alphabet was used to write Old Uyghur, but this eventually evolved into the Old Uyghur alphabet some centuries later. There are some inscriptions written in the Orkhon-Yeniséy alphabet, a script resembling runes, which was eventually spread to Southern Europe.

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ჯუჯები ქართულ!

ხურო ჯუჯები

დილიდან ხურო ჯუჯები გამალებით მუშაობენ თავიანთ პატარა სახელოსნოში.  ქუჩაში გამაყრუებელი ხმაური გამოდის.  იცით, რამდენი საქმე აქვთ?!  ჯერ ციყვს წიგნის თაროები უნდა გამოუჩარხონ, მერე ეჭედელ ჯუჯას – მაგიდა და სკამები.  იმ კუს კი, ხუროებს ისე რომ ამხიარულებს, ახალ სკეიტბორდს უმზადებენ.

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Hyperpolyglot help

One of the things that I’ve become increasingly more fascinated with (and have been fascinated with since as long as I can remember) is the question of how fastest (and most efficiently) to learn a language to a basic level.  By basic level I mean well enough so that your next step would be to study intermediate language learning material in that language: you’ve mastered the alphabet, the phonemes (but not all of the conversation speed phonetic change “rules”), all but infrequently used (or especially formal) syntactic patterns, and a vocabulary of at least 500-1000 of the most common words.  You should be able to pick up a newspaper article in that language and say what it’s about (and not be too far off).  You should be able to complete simple everyday tasks that require speaking and listening in that language.

When I was fresh out of grad school (mid ’90s), I remember discovering a company that specialized in quick language learning through reading.  They had a neat program that had translated mouse-overs for words, and ways to save vocabulary lists — something that we take for granted now, but was quite revolutionary back then.  The other day I was wondering if they were still around.

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Link roundup — 12 September 2011

中秋節快樂! Happy Mid-Autumn Fesitval (中秋節). Happy Peh Goeh Che (八月節). Happy Chuseok (추석). Happy Tsukimi (月見)?

  1. In the spirit of the holiday, there’s an LA Times article about mooncakes 月饼 being the fruitcake of China. Frankly we’re big fans of the red bean mooncakes.
  2. The Independent has an article about language learning in Pakistan, among other places. A quote:

    There’s been some noise this week in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh following the announcement that from 2013, learning standard Chinese will become compulsory for all students

  3. Time has an article on why some languages sound so fast, touching once again on the topic of syllable loads.

    Mandarin, which topped the density list at .94 [with Vietnamese arbitrarily set as 1], was the spoken slowpoke at 5.18 syllables per second.

  4. A proposed Linguistics site is up on StackExchange, a question and answer site that’s an offshoot of StackOverflow, a programming Q&A site. There’s also a proposal for a Chinese Language & Usage site. Both of these need more votes in order to be made official. Have a look.
  5. Finally, if you don’t like the Starbucks mooncake, maybe you’d like a green halal mooncake.

Another take on OCR

Ok I admit it. I watched Star Trek when I was younger. And universal translators were damn cool. Of course a part of me hated the idea, since learning the language is almost as much fun as actually using the language, at least some times.

So I’m a big fan of things like Pleco‘s OCR. I only wish more people were providing such tools. It would be insanely useful for quick-skimming Korean, for example. Today, somewhat late to the game I admit, I came across WordLens. While not really related to China or Chinese in any way, it’s still pretty cool and worth sharing.

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