Three Fails: Handwriting, Punctuation, Alliteration

There’s not really a fail theme, because there’s some serious stuff here too. But since I’m behind on linking to some great posts, and behind on work, here you go:

1. From Pinyin News, old Taiwanese dictionaries with nifty romanization now online, and a notice about handwriting input from Baidu, which I beat the shit out of with my favorite character.

Baidu Fail. [Consolation prize: at least it worked with a browser besides IE]

ceifail Continue…

Secret Confucius Institute Curriculum

Thanks to Sinocism (go there to find the video), I see that the Daily Show has documented yet another case of amusing* reaction in the US to the Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes (孔子学院). At the moment of the snapshot below,  one of the CI opponents is professing not to understand the message of this particular bit of teaching material propaganda because “I can’t read Chinese.”



Dubbing in print — will it ever stop?

We’ve all decried the prevalence of dubbing in the foreign-language-phobic US (and maybe the rest of the world too, but what do I know). Is reading a few subtitles really too much to ask of those who can’t understand the foreign language being spoken?

But what about “dubbing” in print? I’m talking about articles whose subject matter clearly involves another language, but in which not a single term from that original language is offered for reference. Thanks to Konrad Lawson at Frog in a Well, today we’ve got a classic example of “print dubbing” in several articles on China’s recent revision of anti-torture laws. Continue…

I’m not! feeling! what you think I’m feeling!

Having myself been annoyed by the seemingly excessive use of exclamation marks in Chinese writing, I’m glad to see Julen Madariaga is taking up the issue from a purely descriptive standpoint at Chinayouren:

I have seen from experience that many Westerners find this habit annoying, or even consider it immature. I can see where they are coming from, but they should bear in mind that  “!” does not mean the same thing in Chinese as in English. I you don’t believe me, check a professional format letter in Chinese. Both the introductory and the final formulas are normally followed by “!”.

Great point. Just because you recognize the exclamation point from your native language, doesn’t mean you know what it means in Chinese.

This would be a great paper for some intrepid Chinese student: take a bunch of writing of some genre and categorize every last exclamation point. Compare to, say, English, and let us know what you find!

Falsehoods in front-line management

In the situation that a front-line worker in China is dealing with a difficult situation, are they likely to spout something demonstrably false? Specifically: are they more likely to tell you, to your face, that X is true and then have it become clear (often within minutes) that X is not true? [UPDATE: Intro changed — see comments for details]


"not enough of a friend"

Always nice to see I’m not the only one struggling with idiomatic translations from Mandarin into what is ostensibly my native language. When translation pro Bruce Humes encountered ‘Wuhan is really not enough of a friend’ recently, he noted:

Chinese speakers will recognize this last sentence as a translation of a popular phrase (tho’ not always about Wuhan): 武汉真是不够朋友! Assuming I am right about the original Chinese, two questions: Does this quote read like “normal” English to you? How would you translate it?

In the interest of supporting direct answers to Bruce, I’ll leave comments closed here so that you can head over to Paper Republic to add your thoughts.

The lackeys who are worshipping America

When you want good Mandarin invective or Party-ish phrasology, you usually find bilingual dictionaries are not up to the task. They may give you “pawns” and “stooges” and so forth, but you need to read the stuff in context for it all to make sense.

That’s why I’m happy to have stumbled across (h/t Danwei) justrecently’s blog, where not only do you get translations of fun stuff — classic “bridge blogging” — but at least sometimes you also get the key Mandarin phrases from which the juiciest stuff is translated.

美国的狗腿子作崇 translated as
The lackeys who are worshipping America

中方已就美方上述决定向美方提出严正交涉 translated as
The Chinese side has issued solemn and just representations concerning the above-mentioned decision by the American side

I realize I could slog through the originals and find the phrases myself, but this is a huge timesaver and good, harmonious fun to boot.

Brothel bust: Comrades "go deeply into the areas … to understand the situation"

There’s got to be a new internet meme in here somewhere. From Donald Clarke’s Chinese Law Professor blog:

“Before closing the brothels, the Beijing municipal [Party] committee and municipal government did a great deal of investigation and research. Peng Zhen, who at the time was secretary of the municipal Party committee, personally led responsible comrades from the municipal Party committee and the municipal government to go deeply into the areas of south Beijing and the “Eight Major Hutongs” outside of Qian Men in order to understand the situation.” (在封闭妓院之前,北京市委市政府也做了大量的调查研究工作。时任中共北京市委书记彭真曾亲自率领市委市政府负责同志深入前门外“八大胡同”、南城一带了解情况。)

Emphasis is mine. The writers of the news article he quotes from apparently got to do their own archival research and came up with this photo.


I’d have to imagine that searching for a more modern snap would incur the wrath of Nanny.

Buzzphrase tracking — the "China Model"

The latest post on the (highly recommended) China Media Project site has some fascinating history and analysis on phrases from China’s “discourse on greatness.”

A whole new set of terms is emerging in China to describe the country’s growing national power. Taken together, these form what might be called a “discourse of greatness,” or shengshi huayu (盛世话语). China’s discourse of greatness includes such terms as “China in ascendance” (盛世中国), “the China path” (中国道路), “the China experience” (中国经验), “the China pace” (中国速度), “the China miracle” (中国奇迹), “the rise of China” (中国崛起) and, last but not least, the “China Model” (中国模式). Continue…