Intricacies of 5th grade translation

Let’s say you’re a ten-year-old. Your teacher gives you the following Chinese sentence and asks you to fill in the blanks in the English:

这本书很有趣,很多人都从图书馆借阅过。(Zhèi běn shū hěn yǒuqù, hěn duō rén dōu cóng túshūguǎn jiè yuèguo)
The book is ______ interesting _______ many readers have borrowed it from the library

I’ll let you make your guesses before reading on beyond the fold for competing answers from my daughter and her teacher. Continue…

Passing notes

I caught two sixth grade girls passing notes in class today (which I think is far better than just chatting and disrupting the class), and they unexpectedly didn’t try to hide the note when I approached them when the class was over.

I was quite surprised at what I saw.  I recognized the script, and had long thought it would be perfect for this sort of thing because I haven’t found many people in China who can identify it, let alone read or write it.


Healthy Teeth Sanzijing

One thing that struck me early upon arriving in China and immersing myself in the language (almost ten years ago!) was how modern Chinese is permeated with classical Chinese.  I soon came to the horrific realization that if I were to learn Chinese beyond a basic level, I would have to accept this fact.   Of course the most common way this shows up is in chengyu, but we see references to this older language everywhere, especially if we examine how school kids are taught.

One thing that horrified me as a parent was that my kids were asked to blindly memorize many long classics.  One of these is the Three Character Classic.  Because of its three character limitation, it has less possibility for variation in syntax.  There are only these four possibilities for phrase structure (where a repeated letter represents a multi-syllable word (the number of letters equals the number of syllables) and a single letter represents a one syllable word):  XXX, XXY, XYY, and XYZ.

I’m not opposed to studying these things; there is a lot of wisdom in them.  But the way they are normally studied is ridiculous:  they are memorized with very little explanation and recited in a banal rhythm at high speed.  And that’s that.  And they seem to be brainwashed into thinking that by doing so, these treasure troves of ancient wisdom will become part of them, slowly infusing them with beneficence throughout their lives.

Colgate seems to have picked up on this, and has made their own version. Continue…

Ass belch, part II

A few weeks ago when I asked about gěrpì, it took Sinoglot readers all of a few minutes to come up with the dictionary entry that had eluded me. From the comments in that entry I’ll first quote Jeroen’s response:

嗝儿屁[-兒-] gěrpì v.o. 〈slang〉 die; be dead

and then Julen’s comment:

etymology: from ass belching, something people do when they die.

Brendan also noted the phrase is in current (ironic) usage not just among kids.

Now the question is: what would be a better translation of that phrase that inspired the title of the original post: “Grandma’s going to murder me if she finds out”? Continue…

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.


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.


English-Pinyin abbreviation games

My nephew suddenly piped up as we were driving down the road yesterday:

Ài cún bù cún!
“See if we care if you don’t want to save”*

Sure enough, we were passing


one of the largest banks in China.

The joke requires rudimentary knowledge of both Pinyin and English, which elementary students have in spades. It’s a play on ICBC, of course, where the I is read as the sound of the letter in English (same as Mandarin for “love”, 爱=ài) and CBC is made into an abbreviation for 存不存 = cún bù cún. Continue…

Is Huihui literate?

Translation from this article (thanks Joel for the link)

The tone is a bit maudlin, but this article captures well the sense I often hear from adults that Pinyin is almost a secret code. They find it very hard to read (naturally, I’m not implying anything intrinsic to the script, just that if you’re not used to it, it’s rather slow going) and often seem captivated by the idea that kids in first grade can use it to write out comprehensible language, even, as in Huihui’s case, to express heartfelt thoughts.



Mother bursts into tears at daughter’s first “Pinyin Diary”

2010-10-29 10:46:37

pinyin pic卉卉的“拼音日记”。

(Picture) Huihui’s Pinyin diary Continue…

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!”